The holidays are upon us and it’s time we had a real talk about expectations.
This year, it’s time to turn off the TV and all of those picture perfect holiday movies. I don’t think the ones portrayed in the cinemas really exist — sometimes, they just make us feel guilty! I admit, some traditions are difficult to let go of. I know this from personal experience.
After my husband passed away, it took me almost four to five years to stop beating myself up because I did not put up the nine-foot Christmas tree that was collecting dust in my garage. Instead of struggling with the internal battle that came from leaving the massive tree to lay stagnant, I bought not one but TWO smaller trees to take its place.
It is important for us to give ourselves grace in remembering the holidays are not meant to be all about the glitzy Christmas trees, perfectly wrapped presents, freshly baked cookies, or extravagant dinner parties. The holidays are about spending time with the ones we love. This season, I encourage you to put your feelings ahead of the festivities and make new traditions based on what is best for you and your loved one.
If you’re not sure where to start, here are a few of my suggestions:
1. Trade in the idea that you must bake six dozen
cookies, pies, and cakes.
The holidays can be stressful and your energy level will surge! Instead, skip the baking marathon and treat yourself to the really fancy cookies from AJ’s or your favorite bakery. If you still choose to bake, consider letting your loved ones get their hands dirty while preparing your batter. It might get messy, but your loved one will appreciate being included!
2. Remember that smaller, midday get-togethers tend to fare better than larger late-night affairs when it comes to your loved one.
Christmas could be any day of the week in their minds, so consider having small gatherings with a few family members at a time. This will allow you and your loved one to better pace yourselves through the holiday season while still providing those valuable one-on-one interpersonal connections.
3. As a caregiver, you get to set the tone for the holidays.
If decorating your home feels overwhelming and strenuous, consider downsizing and putting up less decorations around the house and yard so you can carve out more time to rest and recharge. Know that it is okay to start saying “no” to the holiday traditions that add stress and take away from spending valuable time with your loved one.
4. Your loved one still craves that familiar sense of inclusion and creativity.
Let them be involved at their level with holiday festivities. Consider putting together a basket of old Christmas cards for them to read and sort through, or play some of their favorite holiday tunes from their generation. These activities provide mellow, yet stimulative engagement opportunities for your loved one while still keeping with the spirit of the holidays.
There’s a lot of hustle and bustle that shuffles in through the holiday season, most of which can feel overwhelmingly stressful for you and your loved one. Give yourself grace and remember it is okay to say “no” to the holiday traditions that overwhelm the already-full plate you carry as a caregiver.
Your holiday doesn’t have to be picture perfect like the Christmas movies on TV. As long as your new traditions fit with what is best for you and your loved one, then your holiday season is already perfect.
Hoping your holidays are filled with love, family, and happiness!
Rosemary Fuller is Oakwood Creative Care’s whip-smart, heart of gold RN and Dementia Expert who not only works to help our members, but their families, too.