Yesterday Bel Aire Seniro Living in American Fork hosted a caregiver support group luncheon. Geri Lehnardt from www.mountainland.org who has been Caregiver Program Coordinator has talked about how to simplify the upcoming holidays and find joy in simple things that this season brings.
We also discussed two talks that Geri printed for us as a handout.
The first one: Reality vs. myth in fighting holiday stress by Edward T. Creagan, M.D. focused on the perceived vision of multigenerational, well- fed, well-dressed family sitting around a table bursting with hoiday offerings, with many beautiful presents wrapped under the Christmas Tree.
The reality for most individuals is somewhat different. Most families have challenges, and many families struggle this time of the year trying to live up to an idealized version of the holidays. Here are some suggestions to help you deal with holiday stress.
Be realistic: If individuals have locked horns for most of the year, it is not reasonable to think that on one day all will be forgiven.
Give of yourself: The best gift is not a toy, a trinket or the latest Apple tablet. It is the gift of our presence, of our listening. It is the gift of our "being there".
Take care of yourself: Knowing when to draw a line in the sand and say, "no, thank you for the opportunity but I will not be able to participate." is probably one of the most important things to alleviate stress.
The second talk: Alzheimer's and the holidays: Find real joy by simplifying focused on finding joy during holidays as a care giver.
The holiday season for those who care for a loved one with dementia or Alzheimer's may not feel so merry. Memories of better times may surface as reminders of what you've lost or what has changed. Often it's a time when you believe that you should be happy, yet increased stress, disappointment, and sadness are the prevailing emotions.
At the same time, you may think that you should live up to expectations of family traditions and how things ought to be. As a caregiver, it isn't realistic to think that you will have time or the energy to participate in all of the holiday activities as you once did.
And for the person with dementia, the holidays can disrupt the sanctuary of the calm and structured routine that suits them best. Geri had two general themes for caregivers and their families to follow during the holidays:
Adjust your expectations: Pick and choose which traditions are most important to you and which you can live without.
Simplify the season: Think about ways you can modify traditions that will still provide meaning to you and your family. Minimize holiday baking, simplify decoration, think about holiday shopping with your loved one during evenings or opt for respite care while you shop.
Also recognize that the person with dementia may feel the discomfort of not knowing all family and friends and feel overwhelmed by the increased pressure and stimulation. Consider more intimate gatherings spread out over several days instead of a large family gathering in one day.
By adjusting your expectations and modifying some traditions you just might find the real joy in the season that comes from simply being and reminiscing with the ones we love.