Published on: December 24, 2018
by The Advocate:
The day-to-day responsibilities of Alzheimer’s caregiving can take its toll, and during the holidays, the range of emotions can run amuck and cause depression or “holiday blues.”
As a caregiver, you should be especially attentive in recognizing your own expectations for a perfect holiday, expectations that are often unrealistic.
You might find it difficult to maintain family traditions, such as cooking specific holiday foods, attending activities and events and/or decorating your home as you usually do.
Think about prioritizing the important traditions and minimize others so you do not get overwhelmed or stressed. In other words, simplify the season.
Learn to set boundaries during the holiday season and not give in to demands from others. Well-intentioned friends and family members may try to push you to participate in holiday gatherings or shopping trips, for example, and just may not understand your situation or your loved one’s progression with the disease. Be honest with them about what you can and cannot do, all the while considering your own needs.
Music can soothe and help improve your frame of mind during the holiday season. If traditional Christmas carols deflate your mood and cause negative emotions, listen to other genres. Classical music is a great accompaniment to meditation, or try listening to favorite tunes from your past, songs which give you a boost. Combining music with soft lighting while baking treats or doing other holiday tasks can keep you calm and distracted from dwelling on feelings of desolation. Some form of physical activity, such as walking, will also lift your spirits and give you a greater sense of well-being.
The holidays are stressful for many people, let alone Alzheimer’s caregivers. Allow yourself to feel. The heavy responsibilities you are experiencing, the sense of loss of your loved one through the journey of the disease, even the anger that can build within you are all normal emotions for caregivers, and the pain is very real.
Talk about the way you feel with other caregivers, as in a support group, or with a clergy member, a friend or counselor. Record your thoughts in a journal and try to dispel shame or guilt. Whatever your beliefs, tap into your spiritual side and try to center yourself to create balance and harmony.
During this season, try to count the many blessings in your life and to experience joy in every moment you spend with your loved one. Learn to let go of the things that no longer matter. Focus on what the holidays are supposed to be or used to be, and most of all, throw perfection out the window.
Most of all, take care of yourself. Allow the holidays to be as good as they can be, and let that be enough at this time in your caregiving.
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