Caregivers’ Priorities Shift During the Holidays

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by Ray Burow |

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Some of us are still adjusting to writing 2019 on bank checks, and here we are knocking on the door of the holidays. The older we become, the faster the years seem to zoom by. Just yesterday, we were children dreaming of snow at Christmas and our parents were bracing for the vacation from school.

Balancing caregiving and holidays

We tend to be nostalgic during the holidays, maybe because becoming an adult changes the playing field. It’s our turn to make Christmas for the kids, and balancing caregiving and other responsibilities drives away the visions of sugarplums that once danced in our heads. Still, don’t give up on the magic of the holidays.

Caring for a parent, spouse, or child with dementia while preparing a family celebration is hard. It’s a balancing act — and not a small one. Caregiving while planning a Thanksgiving meal or shopping for Christmas gifts is like juggling bowling balls. It is difficult and exhausting, but you don’t have to be a magician to pull it off.

Make a few changes

Alzheimer’s disease changes everything, so it shouldn’t be a surprise when plans go awry during the holidays. Caregivers never know what will happen next, but making a few changes will help in taking back some control. It may involve discarding a tradition or two:

  • Let go of perfection: Caregiving takes precedence. Unless hiring a housekeeper before a holiday celebration is affordable, adopt the mantra that good enough is good enough. The friends you’re honoring with a dinner invitation are more interested in spending time with you than with your home’s appearance.
  • Take advantage of services: Finding time to complete holiday shopping is a challenge for caregivers. However, more grocery stores are taking orders online for busy consumers. Home delivery is often available, and caregivers might consider it a necessity when preparing for a special event.
  • Trim the guest list: Instead of having 20 people for Thanksgiving dinner, perhaps a smaller number will be more manageable. If you’re uncomfortable paring down the number of guests for Thanksgiving dinner, consider throwing a potluck. You can provide the slow-roasted turkey, but enlist family members and friends to help with sides and desserts.
  • Skip the fine china: Give yourself permission to use everyday dishes instead of traditional fine china that’s neither dishwasher nor microwave safe. Paper plates are also an option.

Caregivers and their loved ones with dementia constantly adjust to a new normal. Holidays are no exception.

Depending on the stage of the disease, a loved one with dementia or Alzheimer’s is easily confused. The hustle and bustle associated with special holidays may increase confusion. Before an uptick in activity, begin preparing your loved one that the holiday is approaching. They may or may not remember, but acclimating them with what to expect might click at some point.

Set the stage

Take time to orient a person with dementia: “Mom, today is a special day. It is the fourth Thursday in November, the day we celebrate Thanksgiving. We’re going to have a wonderful turkey dinner and all the kids will be here. Won’t that be fun?”

Perhaps the best tip for enjoying the upcoming holiday season is to let go of the idealistic Hallmark movie perception. Remember that caregiving is but a season. Embrace and enjoy the people around you, and your imperfect celebration will be perfect.


Note: Alzheimer’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Alzheimer’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Alzheimer’s Disease.


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