Help During the Holidays
The holidays are here, and if you are like my family, we love this time of year. The last few years have not been as festive due to missing family members, but the memories of how they used to be are pushing us to put more effort into this year.
As a child...
As a child I remember the house with the smell of baking and a little extra cinnamon that my mom might have placed in different rooms. She would make Christmas candies, cakes and cookies. Sometimes they were a part of the decorations, but they just didn't last very long. She would decorate the tree, meticulously place the buildings to create her village and lay out garland and lights the crystal cabinet. Her house was always so beautiful.
Passing the baton
As her fight with COPD became harder, mom had a hard time getting the decorations up by herself. Then eventually she had to ask someone to do it all. I know this made her sad. She was a doer. The decorating was her vision for her home, and handing that over to any of us was difficult.
One of the first times that she passed the baton, I remember fussing a bit. Mostly because I was not understanding what was asked of me. More importantly, I did not understand at that time how difficult it was for her to let me do something so simple as decorating the tree.
It took a few years for me to really begin to see how letting go of things was affecting her, but it was about that time that she began to appreciate, even more, that I was doing it. As caregivers, we really don't understand all of what our loved ones are dealing with, and our loved ones may not really understand our compassion either.
So how do we help?
So how do we help in the holidays, without making it seem like we are taking away our loved one's independence? In a simple word, it is communication, and it starts with a proactive request to allow you to help. You may have a loved one that is stubborn about giving up some of the responsibilities, and that is okay. Work around it. Make yourself available to do what I call the "heavy lifting." Anything that is labor intense would fall into this category. Even lifting an ornament, light as it may seem, can cause shortness of breath when trying to decorate an entire tree.
Help your loved one to plan ahead. If you have someone that loves to cook, are there any dishes that can be made ahead of time and placed in the freezer? Encourage delegation. Although your loved one may need to make that special dish for as long as possible, you can offer to make the extras. Offer to help clean the house and go to the store for what is needed.
It is important to remember why you loved the holidays in the first place. Family, friends and, in some cases, faith are at the center of these special times. Everything may become overwhelming, but try to keep it all in perspective. That goes for both of you: caregiver and patient. Sometimes simpler is better, and many times we try to do too much, even without the extra challenges of this disease. Enjoy the holidays this year, and remember to take more photos than you are comfortable with allowing. You will not regret it in the long run.
May the holidays be a special time for you this year.
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