With Thanksgiving week upon us many families and caregivers start to worry about how their loved one with Alzheimer’s will handle the holiday season. Holidays can be stressful for anyone, but caregivers and individuals with Alzheimer’s disease might experience added holiday stress due to changes in the care recipient’s condition or lack of understanding among family members who only visit during the holidays. If holiday stress is sapping some joy out of the season, these tips may help:
Prepare your family for the holiday gathering.
Arrange for a telephone conference with those who will be visiting. Describe in plain terms how their relative with Alzheimer’s has changed since they last visited, both physically and behaviorally. If a telephone conference isn’t an option, consider sending a letter accompanied with a current picture of your loved one. Also send copies of helpful articles, if you think your family will read them.
Give yourself permission to ask for help.
If you’ve always been in charge of the holiday gathering, that doesn’t mean that you have to keep doing everything you used to do. It’s okay to ask for help with dinner and putting up the tree. If you feel it’s too much to host the holiday gathering, it’s okay to change the tradition. What’s important is that you find a way to still enjoy the holidays without pushing yourself so hard that you run the risk of caregiver burnout.
Get feedback from your family after the holidays.
It may be tempting for some of your family members to offer advice (and unfortunately, criticisms) about how you should be taking care of your relative while they are visiting for the holidays. The way to diffuse this is to tell them before they arrive that there will be no discussions about your loved one’s care during the gathering. Instead, you’d like to follow-up with them after the holidays are over to hear their thoughts, ideas, and suggestions.
Lean on people who understand.
If your family seems unsympathetic towards your caregiving situation, it often means that they simply don’t understand what you are going through — or what your relative is experiencing, either. In times like these, reach out to people who do understand, such as members of a local support group or people you’ve grown to trust.
Of course, it’s also crucial to take good care of yourself by getting enough sleep, exercise, and proper nutrition. Write these healthy habits into your calendar if that’s what it takes, but don’t sacrifice them. By caring for your body as well as your emotional well-being, you’ll be well-prepared to handle the stress that can accompany holiday gatherings.