The holidays can be exciting and magical. They can also be challenging and stressful—especially for those caring for an aging loved one. According to the Caregiver Action Network, family caregivers spend an average of 20 hours a week providing care to older adults with special needs—and those with dementia or Alzheimer’s require an even greater commitment of time from family members.
It’s safe to say that this season, spouses, sons, daughters, grandchildren, and others will be balancing their long-term caregiving responsibilities for aging loved ones with family, work, and holiday planning. To help you manage your time while keeping your loved one safe and engaged in the festivities of the holiday season, here are some tips to help prepare you for a holiday that is as stress-free as possible:
Be clear about your holiday plans
We are all guilty of trying to “fit it all in” for the holidays. “Fitting it all in” becomes the priority but overbooking can add a considerable amount of stress and anxiety to the holiday season, in addition to those responsibilities associated with caring for an aging loved one. Be kind with yourself and instead proactively decide early on what you want and do not want to do. Be realistic about your time and ultimately, your aging loved one’s safety and well-being and choose the invitations you’re excited to take. Please do not feel guilty when opting out of plans that put an overall burden on your already hectic schedule.
Prepare your loved one for any events and changes outside of their normal routine
When you are a caregiver for a loved one aging in place with certain conditions such as dementia or Alzheimer’s, preparation can be the difference between pleasant moments and challenging behaviors. Prepare your aging loved one for holiday festivities by sharing your plans a few weeks ahead of time. Discuss who else will be there and what they can expect. When possible use visual prompts, like pictures to help them identify the faces of the people they will see. In the case of an aging loved one with very specific dietary needs, take time to prepare foods they will truly enjoy ahead of time and plan to bring the meal with you.
Create new traditions with your aging loved ones
Undoubtedly, one of the biggest challenges in both caregiving and the holidays, is finding the time and energy to get it all done. Say for instance, decorating and shopping are traditions that may have been easy and even a joy to honor in the past seem virtually impossible to accomplish now. No need to add the pressure of perfecting those traditions, if they are no longer working or serving your family. Create new traditions that are more in line with the lifestyle your loved one now lives. It is okay to marry new and bits and pieces of older traditions. This can allow for a stress-free and more balanced holiday season.
Ensure their environment is safe
For many, the holiday season often involves visiting and traveling to friends and relatives in their respective homes. Of course, with the rising concerns associated with COVID-19, these trips could very well pose risks for seniors. Plan a special holiday event in-home for your loved one. Please keep in mind that decorations, throw rugs, and dim lighting can create tripping hazards. If you are unable to remediate the fall hazards, be sure that your loved one has assistance when moving around. Loved ones with Alzheimer’s or dementia will need some special attention ensuring that they don’t wander or get distracted. If possible, take turns watching out for your loved one with a friend or loved one which gives everyone a chance to enjoy the festivities.
Enlist a backup caregiver to relieve you
There are some instances where an aging loved one may have triggers, such as crowds or loud noises that make it really difficult for them to truly enjoy an event, particularly when it involves strangers or new places. Reach out to another family member, friend, or neighbor to sit with your loved one for the night instead of canceling your plans if possible. When possible, solicit someone your loved one really enjoys spending time with. Perhaps, plan a special activity they would enjoy, like an arts and crafts project, a puzzle they can complete together or maybe a movie marathon with snacks to make the evening special for everyone.
Consider an attendant
A benefit of consumer-directed care is that you have the power of choice. You choose who comes into your home and is trained to care for the needs of your aging senior. Ultimately, keeping your loved one comfortable and safe in their home. Make the absolute best of the most wonderful time of year—for you and your aging loved one. Hands down, the greatest gift of the season is peace. Knowing your loved one is in capable and good hands provides an unmatched peace of mind.
Does your aging loved one have a disability or special needs? Want to know how to get the resources and support you need? If you do not currently have one, you may qualify for a Medicaid Waiver. At Home Your Way/Moms In Motion can help your family navigate the system.
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