For the last two years, I've managed and written the blog for the Friendship Centers here in Sarasota. The Friendship Centers are a non-profit 501c3 providing support to the community through Health Services, the Caregiver Resource Center, the Senior Centers and an extensive list of events and activities. Their slogan "People Helping People" couldn't be more appropriate.
In November of 2011, my Dad and I attended our first support group meeting at the Caregiver Resource Center. It was for caregivers dealing with Alzheimer's, and the battle was raging for my mother. Our Thursday morning meetings became a weekly tradition, always finishing with lunch at a local favorite. We'd sit outside and always take a trip down Memory Lane, talking about fun memories of the past and his love for Mom. They were together sixty-six years.
Alzheimer's is a horrible disease that robs a family of a loved one, little by little. My Dad was determined to keep those precious moments of the past alive and make a few new memories as well. I remember him once saying, "No matter how bad this gets I'm going to keep squeezing every precious memory out the good moments that come along and hang to them."
Last week I shared a post on the Friendship Centers' blog with tips to help Caregiver's get through the holidays. If this helps just one of you to remember you're not alone, then this post served a purpose.
My wife Sheila and my mother had a special bond, because of the trust Sheila had established with Mom. She never argued with her, corrected or contradicted anything Mom said. Instead, she just worked to appreciate the moment. That's Sheila with Mom in the image above at dinner one night at holiday time. In a lucid moment, Mom had a mini-panic attack when she realized how much things were changing. Two minutes later, just because of the love Sheila shared, Mom was smiling and back on track enjoying the evening.
The seven tips below were recently published in the Caregiver Resource Center's newsletter, and are so crucial to helping caregivers through the holidays. There was just one more point I wanted to add: Remember you're not alone in your feelings, the anxiety of the holidays or in dealing with the challenge of stress. Most important of all, as a caregiver you've got to put yourself first, especially with your health. You can't help your loved one if you're not taking care of yourself.
Seven Tips to Reduce Holiday Stress for Caregivers
Learn to say ”No:" ‘ No ’ as being self empowering to allow yourself and your care partner the ability to enjoy the holidays in a new way.
Don’t aim for perfection: Be flexible when you need to be and change your expectations to fit the current situation.
Maintain your health: Take care of yourself, take your medications and doctor appointments, exercise when you can and enjoy a moderate holiday menu.
Start your own traditions: Find an alternative way to ease your burdens; create new holiday traditions that respect your needs and your care partner’s needs.
Prepared for the unexpected: It’s the holidays and plans may change and probably will, so what to do?.... change it if you can and if you can’t, accept it and move on. There is so much we are no longer able to control.
Remember to breathe: Some deep breaths will help relieve stress and may help you to find the humor in some situations.