The holidays are around the corner. It is an exciting time for everyone – for some, it is the time families and friends celebrate with one another. With the holidays being a time of celebration, sometimes it is easy to forget the potential hazards that can surround it.
For family caregivers, the holidays can also be a stressful time with having to worry about the person they are caring for.
Margaret Stewart, family caregiver, shares her experience:
I wanted a perfect Christmas with all of my children being home. I felt my mom would love and appreciate it. Well, she did not. Because of her difficulty dealing with a progressively worsening dementia, she was irritable and on edge. By pushing myself, I was not calm, and it just made everything worse. There were a few “almost accidents” that did not need to happen.
My daughter took mom to Macy’s to see the decorated trees, and then they stopped at a bakery for coffee and a cookie.
Another day, she brought a gingerbread house, my daughter and mom relaxed and had fun decorating together.
On Christmas Eve, my husband drove us through a beautifully decorated neighborhood, and the three of us enjoyed the glowing lights.
In an inspired move, my son strung a few string lights outside the windows facing the backyard where mom could enjoy them every night. We put up a decorated tree on the outdoor patio table and moved it near the windows. It was a cheerful and simple night.
My oldest son then appointed himself chef on Christmas Eve, chose the music playing in the kitchen, and relegated me to sit with a glass of wine and chop vegetables. For dessert, we opened a gift tin of family recipe cookies sent by my aunt from the Midwest.
The holidays can be a stressful time for family caregivers, but it does not have to be.
Here are my tips for a safe holiday:
- Lighted candles
Candles and a fire in the fireplace bring a sense of coziness and comfort but can be a hazard to people with dementia, those who move with a walker, and to young children. Light your candles on the fireplace mantle or a high shelf where they will not be knocked over, consider battery-operated candles, and commit to sitting by and enjoying that roaring fire alongside your care partner.
- Christmas tree
Consider the placement of the tree. Is it securely in front of an electric outlet so the extension cord will not be a tripping hazard and the tree wont tip over if brushed?
- Considering your family member’s condition
Are you taking care of someone with a condition such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s? How will they feel being surrounded by people during the holidays? This might be a good time to plan ahead on what your care recipient would be most comfortable with.
I encourage you to enjoy your holiday in ways meaningful to you and to allow all the loved ones in your life to engage and create a simple holiday that each person can hold in their hearts.
We realize that not every family caregiver may have the same situation as the story above. Some caregivers may not have family who is available or is willing to help immediately. We hope what you take from the story is asking for help is key. If you do not have family available or willing to help, you can still ask for help from other sources, like church groups, or support groups for family caregivers. Another thing we hope you take away from the story is that respite is important. As a family caregiver, it is important that you take breaks. You might feel guilty about doing this, but by taking a break, you are doing yourself and your family a favor.
Have a safe and happy holidays!
Support group resources:
Read Laura Coger’s blog on expanding your circle of support.
Click here for support groups.
The Washoe Caregivers Guidebook offers self-care tips for the caregiver on page 4. Download your free copy here.
For any other information, contact the Community Foundation at 775-333-5499.
Special thanks to: Margaret Stewart
Interview conducted by Luiza Benisano