By Murphy Ortiz
The holidays can be joyful and exciting. It's a time for family and friends to gather and share holiday traditions. The holidays can also be a time of added stress. Juggling work and family obligations while trying to accomplish all of the holiday preparations such as shopping, baking, wrapping etc. can be exhausting. But for those who are a family caregiver of an aging senior, the added responsibilities can begin to feel like an overwhelming burden. How do you handle the holidays with an already bulging schedule?
Involve your senior in the holiday preparation activities.
Depending on the health of your parent, you can ask them to help you hang ornaments, help bake and decorate baked goods, put stamps on outgoing holiday cards, set the holiday table, or pass out gifts to open.
Remember holiday traditions.
If your elderly parent lives with you, add some of their holiday traditions to yours. Make her feel welcome and comfortable in your home. It's a good time to share stories and traditions with younger members of the family.
Evaluate the environment.
If you're taking your parent to another family member's for a holiday visit or meal, take a look at the space before the day of the gathering. Seniors are at greater risk of falls as they age, and throw rugs and clutter can increase those risks. If your senior is incontinent; bring a change of clothes along in case of an accident. Be sure to bring any special dietary requirement of your loved one if it won't be available at the gathering.
Plan for rest.
Seniors tend to tire more easily and may need to take a nap or just a break from the activity. Seniors with dementia are especially prone to over stimulation from increased activity and noise levels. Taking a break to a quiet area of the house may make for a much more pleasant time.
Sometimes your loved on may have an accident due to incontinence. Or perhaps they are forgetful. Try not to embarrass your parent by announcing a toileting accident or chastising them for repeating themselves. These behaviors embarrass seniors, making them feel like a child. If you're feeling frustrated or overwhelmed with these behaviors, take a short break yourself.
Ask for help.
Since we all know the holidays are a source of added stress, make time for yourself. Caring for an elderly parent can be overwhelming, especially when you're spread thin. If a family member can provide respite for you, accept their help. This gives you time to shop, prepare for the holidays, or even just rest. You can also seek the assistance of a home care agency. A caregiver from a home care agency can stay with your loved one while you attend to holiday preparations. The caregiver can also help your parent with shopping, baking, wrapping gifts, or preparing holiday cards. Some families hire a caregiver to attend all or a portion of a family holiday event with their parent. The caregiver can then bring your parent home while you enjoy the balance of the event with family. The holidays are meant to be a time of joy. But sometimes the responsibilities of being a family caregiver can become overwhelming, thus making the holiday a very stressful time for everyone. Consider getting some help for your loved one as a gift to yourself as well as to them. Being more well rested and having some of the tension reduced will make your holiday more enjoyable for everyone.
Murphy Ortiz is the manager of Family Choice Home Care. For more information about senior safety or home health care in New Jersey or Philadelphia, go to http://www.familychoicecares.com or cal 856-273-7700.
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