Caregiver Holidays

Caregiver Holidays

Christmas Greeting

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:

poinsettia

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.

sheet music and bells

 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.

Angels

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.


Elder angel

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.

sign off jas

Amen. – Judy Shone

Each day, do something that makes others smile and your heart sing!


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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

‘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.

no walking

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.

nurse and syringe

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.

no socializing

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.

man in mask

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.

loved one painting

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

Each day, do something that makes others smile and your heart sing.

signoff initials

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.

“Is There Any Ice Cream?” and “Did You Hide the Cookies?”
Accepting the GIft of Caregiving series, Part One and Part Two.

Annie B sends bear hugs for the holidays!

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