Holidays and special occasions can bring out the best and the worst in
us. The prospect of wonderful, happy times abound, filling us with
somewhat unrealistic hopes for our relationships. We are often
disappointed by how these special occasions turn out. Add to the normal
tensions of holidays, the image of someone you love being ill or
incapacitated, and you have the makings of very difficult times. Many
times we wish we could just disappear until the holidays are over.
Caregivers may have unusually high expectations during holidays and
special occasions. Knowing that this might be a last birthday,
anniversary, Thanksgiving, Hanukah etc., caregivers may feel enormous
pressure to make this time especially significant. The caregiving family
faces the normal tensions families experience in the holiday season, but
their resources are usually depleted, energy levels are low and free time
Some thought and careful planning can make these times easier. First
and foremost, we need to try and think about what we really want to
happen. Are you looking to have a quiet day? Is it important to have
anyone in particular with you? If you are a caregiver you must ask
yourself, "What am I up to doing?" Honor your answer by not
doing more than you feel you are comfortable doing.
If you choose to have company at these times, make it as easy as
possible. Don't assume all the responsibility. Ask your loved one what he
feels up to. Most people usually like to have those they love, and feel
comfortable around, with them. Limit these occasions to family members and
a few close friends.
Encourage honest communication between the entire family including
close friends. Although your loved one may not seem to know exactly what
is going on, try to remember that most care recipients have a real sense
about themselves, their illness and what is going on in their world. Don't
allow the person's illness to replace their identity.
Families can share their sadness and disappointments by openly
communicating about them. And, while you do not need to force
cheerfulness, don't forget that humor makes many of the difficulties of
life easier to bear.
Keeping your level of expectations realistic will make the day go more
smoothly for you, your loved one, extended family and friends. Remember
that whatever you choose to do this year does not need to be the same as
the past or the same in the future. If sandwiches on paper plates served
in the bedroom are all that is possible, don't try to cook a turkey
The best advice for caregivers is to be realistic. Expect the normal
tensions of family togetherness. Let others know how they can make the
holidays easier for you. Don't overdo it. Recognize that you may be
physically and emotionally depleted. Try to read, exercise, eat well and
get some time alone. Try to stay in the here and now; anticipation is
always worse than the actual event. We cannot predict what tomorrow will
bring for anyone, so enjoy this day without needing for it to be perfect.
Let yourself dispense with the "institutional" nature of the
holidays and look for ways to make the day meaningful for yourself and for
your loved ones.