Bursack: Caregivers see holiday challengesDear Readers: As caregivers, we want to provide a memorable Christmas for our loved ones. To do that, we often feel we must keep all of our family traditions. The problem is that as our elders age, many of us find that holiday traditions become painfully challenging, if not impossible. I know. I’ve been there.
By: Carol Bradley Bursack, INFORUM
Dear Readers: As caregivers, we want to provide a memorable Christmas for our loved ones. To do that, we often feel we must keep all of our family traditions. The problem is that as our elders age, many of us find that holiday traditions become painfully challenging, if not impossible. I know. I’ve been there.
Your parents may have become frail. They may be unable to be transported because of physical problems. They may become disoriented when they are moved from familiar surroundings or cranky because they don’t understand what is happening. Even more painful for you, they may not recognize you as their child.
If you have children or grandchildren who want a traditional Christmas, you may feel increased pressure. You want your elders to get as much enjoyment out of the season as possible, and that could mean there are many adjustments necessary to the children’s expectations. Finding a balance is tough.
Along with feeling challenged and often exhausted from trying to make this holiday season “perfect” for everyone, your heart aches with memories of past holiday seasons, when your elders were strong and vital. It’s possible that feeling sadness is going to be your most vivid memory of this Christmas season.
How do caregivers cope with all of the conflicting feelings these holiday celebrations bring?
We cope imperfectly. We find our way around the expectations of perfection that permeate this season.
My sister, Beth, and I spent many years trying to cope with the combination of ill elders and young children. The holidays were always a challenge. We managed by taking advantage of the full season, not just the actual day, to help our elders celebrate.
Our family had 15 years of nursing home holidays, and our children deserved some home-style memories. We made hard choices, but we did our best. It’s all we could do.
That’s all you can do. Celebrate the holidays the best you can, but remember that no holiday will be as perfect as the idealized version. Reduce expectations, do what you can and know that your best is good enough.