Celebrating special occasions and holidays with a loved one with memory loss may require improvising new ways of carrying out family traditions, accepting that what once brought pleasure may yield only frustration, and that the stress of care giving can seem overwhelming. Especially during the holiday season, caregivers may feel frustrated, sad or resentful. These emotions are completely normal and not a sign that you are failing in some way. Accept these emotions as they come, adjust your expectations and give yourself permission to do only what you can reasonably manage.
With planning, traditions can be changed or modified to bring joy to the individual affected by memory loss, the caregivers and the entire family. If you do anticipate the holidays being difficult, consider the following suggestions:
1. Plan for a holiday season that will meet your current needs. Consider holding a family meeting to review holiday traditions and to decide what to continue, what to eliminate and what new traditions to begin.
2. Set realistic expectations. Sets limits about what you and your loved one can and cannot do. Avoid situations that will further confuse your loved one including loud music and conversations, strange or different surroundings, and an overindulgence in rich foods or alcohol.
3. If you wish to include your loved one in the usual festivities, be sure you have a plan for someone to leave early with them if necessary.
4. If participating in the usual, or even simplified festivities, proves too challenging, reliving happy memories by singing old holiday songs, flipping through picture albums or reminiscing with a box of well-worn ornaments may be a source of comfort and joy for you and your loved one.
5. Find those activities that sustain you. More than ever, you are likely to need someone with whom you can talk openly about your feelings. Exercise, meditate – whatever you choose- strive to carve out a few minutes of every day for you.
With careful thought and planning, you, your family and your loved one will be able to share a meaningful holiday season.
Submitted by Maria Camerlengo, Director of Community Relations, Peregrine’s Landing at Tewksbury