Patti Gobetz

The Holidays are Coming

January 06, 2010
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Ah the holidays! A cozy fireplace, everybody is smiling, sharing a tale or two preparing for the big feast, sugar plums dancing in their heads… wake up, wake up! Being a Care Runner during the holidays can be as difficult for you as it is for your Loved One. But I learned some things over time that helped make the holidays joyful for all of us.

My mother was at her worst during the holidays, always sad and depressed and saying “this is my last year”. Well six years came and went, but this year mom will get her wish as she passed away in August.

For a little background, my mother lost my father 21 years ago, but what hit my mother the hardest were the deaths of my two brothers. One passed suddenly in 1999 of a heart attack in her house just 16 days after his 50th birthday. My other brother (whom I was also a caregiver for) died from cancer in 2004 two days after his 53rd birthday. I can tell you I was beginning to dread my birthday!

Through my experience, I have found that those you are taking care of do want to be a part of the “traditions” even though their words, attitudes or mood may indicate otherwise. They are scared, partially because they have forgotten, and believe it or not, somewhere inside of them they don’t want to be a burden. So their defense is not to participate, becoming obstinate and very childish. To help understand, you need to change roles and feel like a child, as they do.

To keep my sanity and not become fully consumed with anger or resentment I tried to recreate the traditions my mother cherished. I started preparing my mom by giving her a countdown book for the days of Christmas. You remember, each day you open a window or a door until Christmas. For a special surprise, I would sometimes put a piece of chocolate behind that day. But be careful, they catch on fast. The next day I asked my mom where all the chocolate was and she said, “I don’t know someone must have taken it”. With assistance she would write down her Christmas list and she would begin telling her stories. My mother would remember things from when she was a child and she would laugh and my heart would swell bigger than life. I wrote all these stories down to share with other family members even if they were the same stories over and over.

Involve your loved one in the preparations. Even the most menial task means something to them. This is not easy because they will be angry, stubborn and any other emotion they are having that day. Don’t be afraid to tell them they need a time out - better yet give yourself a time out. More important, be kind to your immediate family. Many times they do not know what to say or how to help you and I’ll bet, more times than not, you have taken your frustration out on them.

Each day you open a window or a door that has a surprise behind it also. Every breath you take is fresh and new. Find yourself an inspiring phrase to say each day and live it.

And look to us for help as well. CareRunner is a rare collection of people who have the experience and heart to help and support you in any way we can.