Every day is a busy day for home caregivers – and the holidays take busy to a new level. When one has a senior loved one (or loved ones) for which one must care, it presents special challenges when making plans for holidays and holiday gatherings.
With that in mind, the following suggestions are offered to help keep things running more smoothly during this busy time of year.
- Communicate in advance. Be sure that guests know in advance of any changes in the health of senior loved ones. Also take time to mention any specific issues that may arise. For example, if incontinence has become more common, let relatives know about this and that you may need someone to help in the kitchen when you need to take Grandmother to the bathroom. If Father has developed a tendency to sing without provocation, mention that. This should all be phrased in an easy, informative way, intended to just make people aware of things without alarming them or making them feel; hesitant about coming.
- Prep the patient. Make sure the patient knows about the gathering, as well as who is likely to be there. In some cases, home caregivers may need to remind a loved one of exactly who each person is – and may need to do this several times. Names may not be enough, so rather than mentioning Nancy, refer to her as “Nancy, your friend who lived next door when you were a child.”
- Know where to situate the loved one. Be sure that the senior’s seat in the living room is not too near a source of noise and is located near people they will want to talk with. At dinner, locate the loved one as centrally as possible so that they can hear what is being said.
- Designate assistants. Home caregivers who will be in the kitchen should designate assistants to tend to the patient. That includes not just tending to their needs (e.g., getting a glass of water, making sure they are comfortably seated) but actively engaging them (e.g., bringing Aunt Sue into a conversation with the patient, suggesting a topic for the patient to talk about).
- Know when to stop. Some family gatherings can go on for many hours – and in some cases, that may be fine. If the loved one gets tired, they can be excused to go to their room and lie down. But in other cases, the patient may be agitated or upset by too many people continuing to be in the home. Know in advance what the likelihood is of this, and if necessary set a time limit on when people will need to leave so that the patient can rest.
Home caregivers need to enjoy the holidays, too – so make sure not to take on so much that you can’t participate as well!