Caregiver Holidays

Caregiver Holidays

JOY TO THE WORLD

The sounds of strolling carolers, or neighbours singing, the church organ playing, music on radio and TV, videos on social media, CDs playing while making holiday cookies; meeting friends for a drink of cheer and laughter, or walking in the snow—all enhance the excitement of the holiday season for many families each year.

The words of songs and holiday stories stir up visions of happy times together with families and friends. Sadly, this year of COVID has intensified the lack of these experiences for many, but particularly for caregivers, who find their challenges have already diminished their moments of joy.

IT CAN BE DIFFICULT at the best of times for caregivers, especially for those caring for loved ones with memory loss, to feel hopeful and happy during the winter holidays. And even more so if they have been giving care to the same person for a number of years.

There is no doubt that caregiving is exhausting. Life’s little happy moments show up less and less, and caregivers can become numb to the glitter, glamour and excitement of the holidays. Sometimes it seems easier to just let the holidays pass, unnoticed. Sometimes a state of depression seems safer than trying to lift a heavy heart and gloomy spirit to join in merry festivities.

But articles and studies indicate it is not really healthy to withdraw from the social and iconic traditions of holiday festivities and gatherings. And perhaps, not really necessary. There are ways to maintain a healthy mental outlook to enjoy special times. It is worthwhile remembering that caregiving can be a long road and sustaining good mental health must be on top of the caregiver’s self-care list.

Good mental health for caregivers is important enough that it must be consciously addressed. Consider how you might help yourself step away from the suction of depression, the heavy heart and gloomy spirit, by spending a few moments, or hours in honour of your own care!

Whether a caregiver or someone who cares enough to support caregivers,
CONSIDER how these suggestions might be helpful:

ADD SOMETHING TO YOUR ‘GRATEFUL LIST’ or your Appreciation Journal, daily. In his book “Upward Spiral,” neuroscientist Alex Korb, M.D. explains that practicing gratitude is one of many pathways to an upward spiral to happiness.

It may seem counter intuitive but when we are ‘down,’ if we start counting our blessings we feel better. And when we feel better, we can care better. And when we care better, our burdens of caregiving seem less. Somehow, it works, beginning with being grateful.

CALL AND CHECK ON SOMEONE. It will make your life fuller to have someone new to check on. One time or more. But at the holidays especially. I am grateful to those who check on us time and time again. I know how good it makes me feel to hear their voice in a time when I cannot go out. And in turn, I can call one person and hopefully make their day brighter.

COLLECT UPLIFTING QUOTES. Hard as it may seem to believe, other people have walked in our shoes. Learn from them. Look for their encouragement in their words. Find and save quotations that make you feel good, ones you can read over and over and each time feel better than just moments before. Save them where you can find them, whether in a notebook or in a computer file.

 LISTEN TO FAVOURITE MUSIC. Music makes us feel better. “When you listen to a song you really like, dopamine [a neurotransmitter] is released into your brain. The effect of this is simple – you feel good! Brain scans have shown that this dopamine rush is at its peak when you reach the part of the song you love most or in the 15 seconds leading up to it.”

The dopamine spreads the good feelings and make you feel better.  Make a playlist of music to play or keep those special CDs close by. Get  up and dance if it makes you feel good. It is your mental health that is being soothed…’work it!’

BRING OUT THE FAMLY ALBUMS OR PHOTOS.  Holidays mean family to many, so it makes sense to explore more about your family during times you are together, zoom or by email, phone or even by going through your genealogy information. Good feelings arise when you reflect on former holidays spent together, good feelings surface when you see photos of those you especially are or were close to. Be the instigator of your own good feelings by finding photographs and put them where you can see them.

INCLUDE COOKING FOR HOLIDAY UPLIFT.  Sensory memories seem to last a long time. Associating certain foods with happy moments awakens those happy memories. Make cookies, or gingerbread, fruit breads, or even let wassail simmer on the stove. Cook a small turkey and dressing to fill the home with holiday memories. Take time to recreate whatever soothes your sense of smell to bring those ‘feeling good’ memories to life.

SHARE WITH FAMILY, FRIENDS AND NEIGHBOURS. In the pandemic we have missed meeting our social needs. If there are ways to share with friends and neighbours and family, drop a basket of wrapped treats, a book or a meaningful item on their front porch or inside their door. Better yet, make arrangements for a hand-off time and a quick masked smile and wave.

Perhaps, you can stand in the yard and they can stand on the porch and sing carols together. Sounds of music can go through the mask materials. Christmas cards are becoming less of a tradition because of the time it takes to write them out. So instead, write one Christmas letter and send it out. People who enjoy hearing from you will love getting it. They are ones you care about.

ZOOM / TEAMS / FACETIME often, with family members rotating in ‘the chair’ so loved ones get to be part of the festivities and close to loved ones. For those who need help, a phone appointment for a few moments might be a luxury but take it. People on both ends of a call benefit from connecting. Remember to ‘take a picture’ of the event, print screen, and send them a photo of the event afterwards.

REMEMBER TO BE THANKFUL for these opportunities. Let them warm your heart. Doing for others has a way of lifting us from our own depressed moments so we, too, can enjoy our special times during the holidays.


I wish you all a year ahead filled with love, awareness, kindness, gratefulness, and appreciation for the blessings we have had. May the hard times be dwarfed by the memorable moments you can return to over and over in your mind. I wish you good health, friendships, and easy times.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS, wherever you are, whatever you may celebrate.  May 2021 bring you all that makes you happy, all that is meaningful and all that is beautiful. May you know how to walk away from unhealthy situations to keep your world a kinder, wholesome place.

Amen. – Judy Shone

Each day do something to make others smile and your heart sing!


In paperback, hardcover and ebook

Holiday happiness for a floundering caregiver!!

Available online: from Amazon and other booksellers
Order locally through:
A Different Drummer Books in Burlington, Ontario
Barnes & Noble in US
Chapters/Indigo in Canada
Maria’s Bookshop in Durango, Colorado,
The Bookworm in Omaha, Nebraska,
or other local booksellers.


Caregiver Holidays (c) 2020 Judith Allen Shone

Searching for What’s Lost

Searching for What’s Lost

Here we are, nearly nine years since I said I’d be My Love’s caregiver— when his downhill slide began, when his coughing was given a name… COPD. More significantly, it is nearly eight years since his doctor confirmed that his forgetful behaviours indicated an Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia diagnosis. Now, I am watching as My Love enters stage seven. I am learning new strategies as his Alzheimer’s disease unfolds. It is not surprising so much of his life is ‘lost.’

At this point in My Love’s life, he has truly lost many memories—he recalls today’s drive across town for a few minutes or maybe an hour? Yesterdays’ game of cards or memories of art classes last year fade quickly. And even his recollections of skiing and boating from younger years, those called long-term memories from the peaks of his life, are falling away, vanishing.

The words he held in his brain continue to evaporate. Losing his words is not new, just more intense. Our conversations are nonexistent. He seems to hear what I say, although, he does not always seem able to connect a meaning to the sounds. If it is important, I cannot wait for games—I ‘just do’ whatever needs doing.

When he walks to the back room for a sweater, it is normal for him to come ask me what he was getting, or even to return without the sweater and not realize he had gone to get one.  When he begins to go to the bathroom, he first asks permission if he can go and then confirms with me where he is supposed to go…’first door on the left down the hall.’  I must watch to be sure he makes the correct turn to eliminate any possible alternatives and to avoid any accidents.

When he asks for a glass of milk, which he indicates with his hands and fingers showing me the height of a round glass when he cannot ‘find’ the word milk, he might forget why I left the room and wonder why I brought him a glass of milk on my return.

My Love is somewhat of a neatnik!  He removes the Kleenex from the box and folds each one into a square and tucks each one back into the box. I have found pencils, spoons, his inhaler, and even the TV remote mixed in with the little stacks of folded tissue. He has all his art supplies in several transparent containers so he can see what he has. He has stopped using them but still likes looking at them. If I need to locate the watch he took off last hour, or he wants his fingernail clippers, I might have to sort through the art supplies, Kleenex boxes, book shelves, baskets of CDs, or among the potted plants and sometimes even in his coat pockets, to find where he has neatly stowed his ‘personal belongings.’

His billfold is his most prized possession. He still puts it in his back pocket, pats his behind to check it is there each time he stands up. At night, he carefully puts it on the dresser like he has done for all the years I have known him. At this point, it carries paper copies of his Canadian senior card, his provincial senior ID and a couple of his former ‘important’ business cards from days gone by. We have found a misplaced billfold in a different pocket, under the bed, in a drawer, on his desk hidden under papers, on the shelf in the bathroom, in his pants in the laundry. Even though it no longer carries anything of value, I believe that to My Love, it still carries the idea of his former life. If I say we are going to the grocery, he immediately pulls out his wallet and anxiously reports he has no cash. Each time I explain they will not take cash anymore, so he should not worry about it. He seems to accept that. He can no longer connect the thought process of why he needs cash.

In this stage of Alzheimer’s his schedule has been shifting. He wakes later in the day, wants his meals at unscheduled times, and has no interest in going to bed at his former ‘regular’ time. I cannot go to bed while he is awake. This changing schedule is pushing my exhaustion level higher. I try to waken him, but he rolls over and goes back to sleep. There are times it is nice for the peace, but mostly it is tiring to adjust to a new schedule that is only temporary. When he does finally walk down the hall, dressed in his jeans and pj shirt with bare feet, he asks where his shoes and socks are. He has no idea he has walked right by them on his way out of the bedroom. He does not understand the words I use to explain where he put them the night before, so, routinely, we must walk to the bedroom together to find what was lost.  

There will not be a solution to this craziness, it is the disease. Where he puts his shoes has not changed in years. We have lived in our home nearly twenty years and the bathroom has always been the same place. But he now cannot remember. I am the one who must find the lost inhaler when his allergies turn his eyes red. He no longer recalls what it looks like, what it is for and how to use it. He is not sure what his nail clippers are for and he forgets how to use them, so he hid them away and now I am the one who must guess where he ‘hid’ them.

It is like his medications. He has begun to resist taking them. He hides them in his food, under his napkin, and has dropped the pills in his water to melt. I see them. But he thinks he has tricked me. I do not think memory loss has prompted this behaviour, but perhaps chewing pills and getting a bad taste in his mouth has made them undesirable. In any case, I am trying to give him his pills before a meal so I can monitor closely and do not have to go looking for them later!

Do I sound catty? The pandemic is impacting both of us, but especially me, because we, or I, go NO-WHERE! It is winter now; he cannot wait in the car while I shop. I would take him with me to but I spend too much time explaining the distancing rule rather that getting in and out in a hurry. He has no idea what the virus is all about. Like many, he hates his mask. I envision the scene where, if he went with me, he would be asked where his mask is, and he would not know what the person was saying and would not be able to answer.

So, knowing My Love is happy sitting at home for twenty minutes with a TV show on, I can make short, quick trips, or else pick up packages in parking lots, or order online and accept deliveries. And although his surrounding life may be disappearing, at least when he is at home, I do know where to find him…he is not yet among the lost. 


Searching for What’s Lost (c) 2020 Judith Allen Shone

‘Social Life’ During COVID

‘Social Life’ During COVID

During the Covid-19 period, we, like others, have had far fewer physical social connections than ever before. Beginning here March 2020 and lasting through the rest of the year, My Love and I have been our own bubble of two and see few other people regularly.

In response to the virus, and the isolation it demanded of us so we would not become part of any chain that might spread the disease, our social life took a dramatic turn, to the point we are grateful for the few people who will be remembered as our ‘social life’ as they crossed our path.

No more exercise classes or art classes with our Alzheimer Society friends. No casual lunches with former associates. No dances, nor walks along the lake or in the park. It has not been just My Love’s Alzheimer’s disease that has slowed us down or reduced our socialization. COVID took the world by surprise and social lives changed.

The nurse who administered our flu shots had a few moments of chit chat while getting her needle primed. She and the receptionist who said, “hello” and smiled as she received my new book for the doctor were our ‘other human’ connections that day.

The man who counted customers going in and out of the grocery store always said, “hello.” The lady, who delivered groceries to our car when we picked them up, always chatted while she quickly took the filled bags from her cart to put in the back seat of our car. Store clerks, enclosed in Plexiglas cages, while filling bags for me, found time for a kind comment, which became more important than ever before.

The serviceman who put air in my tires during the ‘tween’ seasons, when they seemed to lose air, always waved me onto the track beside the oil-change pit, looked me in the eye when he asked my name and said, “thank you” when we left.

Last week, after only 200 km use between May and November, I had my tires switched from summer to winter at Toyota. The man who has long been my ‘agent’ at the service desk and I spoke through partition about the condition of the tires and the service needed. The Uber driver who took me home was chatty, but our connection had to be through his rear-view mirror.

Our friendly pharmacist adheres to the red lines, six feet apart, on the ground and so we speak louder to one another through the plexi barrier as she hands me the bagged meds around the end.

Upon occasion we have met friends in a parking lot and have spoken briefly through the car window. I have momentarily met with a friendly salesman in a parking lot for an exchange of a purchased product. I have quickly chatted from across the room to the post lady while she filled the post-boxes. Occasionally, I even chatted in the elevator for a twelve-floor ride with the number-two person allowed on board. Sometimes I  happened to cross paths with the building superintendent for a few exchanged greetings when I took the trash down to the dumpster.

Mostly it has been me who has spoken to others. My Love has no idea what the COVID is. He rarely uses a mask. He hates them, although does accept wearing one when we leave the apartment. He gets weekly phone calls from his brother, even though I realize it is the recognition of the voice, not the conversation that is meaningful.

In our home, My Love has had no social interactions and I wondered if not having regular physical socialization, and thus conversations with others, made a difference. I have had enjoyable phone calls, newsy emails, been on teleconferences, and zoom meetings with groups and family, all of which were really important. But the ‘in person’ energy, that vibration of a human being, has been missing. I cannot imagine how My Love must feel with no connections…I do know he still has feelings.

Even though I am not sure I can say COVID has accelerated this loss of words, My Love is no longer a good conversationalist. He sits quietly a lot of the time, watches his photos, looks at books, paints, listens to radio or watches TV, if I am doing other work.

His word recognition has slipped faster than expected during this period. He does not understand my words and finds it hard to find the right words himself to talk to me. I keep remembering his Alzheimer’s is still at play. My Love will not be learning. He is unlearning as fast as his life memories and functional memories evaporate.  

I am not sure if the increased acceleration is due to lack of socialization or if it would occur anyway. I doubt we will ever know. But it is difficult for me to keep having conversations with myself, even as I am ‘talking’ with My Love. I talk for myself, and then I carry his side of the conversation as well. It is not all silent self-talk.

All I can say is that this isolation has changed our life, changed our activities, changed our socialization. I wonder what life will be like when the danger of being near others allows us to be in groups again.

I’d love to know if you ‘like’ the stories here and what you like … so we can keep the focus pointed the right direction! 🥰 There is a ‘Like’ button at the bottom of the page! Thank you so much for your encouragement! 🤗hugs, jas


Social Life During COVID © 2020 Judith Allen Shone

The top four pictures are from Pexels.com.
The last photo is the author’s loved one.


For the holidays, consider giving the gift of reassurance to caregivers who would benefit from your support Amazon.

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Accepting the GIft of Caregiving series, Part One and Part Two.

Annie B sends bear hugs for the holidays!