Surviving the Holidays
Today I would like to introduce you to Sarah Hyde-Williams. As co-Founder of Senior Living Advisors of Austin, Sarah has nearly 20 years of experience serving seniors and their families as an eldercare expert through her various roles within Assisted Living and Dementia-Supportive Communities, Home Health and Hospice. Through deep compassion and respect, she guides families in finding care for an aging loved one, which can often be a difficult and overwhelming process. Her background has provided extensive knowledge and experience that will give you comfort in knowing that your decisions are made wisely according to what truly matters most to you. Her practice includes Senior Housing Placement, Advanced Care Planning, and Education.
She is a State of Texas Certified Assisted Living Manager, Certified Dementia Care Manager, Certified Dementia Practitioner, Certified Alzheimer's Disease & Dementia Care Trainer, Certified Montessori Dementia Care Professional, and currently serves the Lewy Body Dementia Association as the Central Texas Facilitator and Educator.
Knowing Sarah's background I felt it would be beneficial to go over some helpful steps for caregivers to do more than simply survive the holidays. Whether your loved one is living at home with you or in a community for seniors then you might already be feeling the day-to-day challenges and stressors without adding in expectations for the holidays.
It might be a painful reminder if your loved one is no longer with you. It might be a source of worry or anxiety wondering if this will be their last birthday, anniversary, or even Thanksgiving celebration. Caregivers with unusually high expectations during the holidays and special occasions may feel pressure to make this time especially significant.
It is difficult adapting to our loved one's loss of abilities and accepting their changing limitations. I wanted to hang on to some traditions in the kitchen or even around a Christmas tree and then somewhere along the way I lost the spirit of the holidays. It has admittedly taken me some time to be grateful for each moment throughout the year with each opportunity to spend with Mom. I have not stopped worrying if this holiday may be her last, but by while spending quality time with her, I feel more at peace with the time spent. If it is her last then I will have good memories nonetheless.
Here are a few pointers to keep in mind as you go through your holiday season:
1 - It is okay to cry. It is natural to feel depressed if your friends are having the ideal family gathering. It is normal to mourn the past, present, and any potential future. No amount of preparation will create perfection so do not be afraid to ask for help so you can find time to feel through the moment with tears.
2 - Be gentle with yourself, especially if you have recently lost a loved one. Not everyone is jolly through the holiday season. This is a learned skill to recognize our limitations to be able to reprioritize.
3 - Keep evaluating your expectations for the reality check of what is realistic. Your love one may not be as chatty as they once were but may still enjoy listening to you or others telling stories of their current lives.
4 - Delegate responsibilities and activities so that one person is NOT taking on more than they can accomplish. People like to help and your loved one has another opportunity to feel included.
5 - Start new traditions that make sense. It does not have to be the same way all the time, especially if the family is estranged over the care for your loved one. What may be seemingly perfect on social media or advertisements is not a reality for all. Do not be afraid to let go of the old traditions to find space for new and different traditions.
6 - Do things together to enjoy the time spent not just because you feel you have to. Your loved one may struggle to remember but you can remember for them. Keep making new memories as long as you can.
7 - While you do not need to force the cheerfulness, don't forget that humor makes many of the difficulties of life easier. Avoid hot topic items that upset your loved one and family. You know what those areas are and the potential they have to suck the jolly out of the atmosphere.
8 - Make time to Meditate because it is a great practice to help keep you centered while lowering stress.
9 - Support Groups are highly beneficial so maintain a connection with them or keep in touch with a special friend.
10 - Holiday Greetings or mail for your loved one that you may not be able to see is an added bonus for them to hear from you with a holiday card with pictures. Even if their memory is challenged the feeling lingers far longer than the memory does.
The best advice to caregivers is to be realistic. Don't overdo it. Recognize you may be physically and emotionally depleted. Don't allow commercials or media to show advertisements of a "happy family" to become your framework of what should be. The holidays are what you make them. Any moment can be a holiday with pie and whip cream so try to enjoy the gift of time with gratitude.
Be sure to subscribe to the podcast on your favorite app. Not finding it there? Let me know and I will do what I can to get it added!
Intro: Vacation Time by Khris Paradise
Outro: Misty by Khris Paradise