When It’s Not a Merry Christmas

The holidays and especially Christmas Day are times that hold high expectation of merriment, joy, lavish amounts of food, the love of family and friends, the opening of presents, the admiration of decorations and voices raised in song.  Unfortunately this is not always the reality for  caregivers.  It’s not the reality for  many other people, as well.  When Christmas does not match our perceptions of how it should be, there can be huge disappointment and often despair.

I’m going to be completely transparent here and say that for various reasons, with which I won’t bore you, I am not having a merry Christmas.  It’s probably the worst one I’ve ever experienced.  In fact, I can’t wait for it all to be over so that I can move on to concentrating on the New Year (I think it was a very bright person who placed the New Year Celebration just a week after Christmas). 🙂 Many things can affect our holiday spirit. Loss of a loved one is a huge challenge during the holidays. A change in job status, isolation, financial difficulties, memories of  Christmases that did not go well  in the past,  relationship problems, and health problems are but a few more.

For caregivers, the holidays can Merry Christmas and happy new year bring additional concerns such as the disruption in their loved one’s routine due to a multitude of activities or  many visits from friends and family.  This can completely wreak havoc in the home and sometimes even cause the need for a hospital admission to get the loved one back on track.

Another caregiving related problem can be caused by well meaning family members visiting from out of town who have not seen the loved one in a few months.  One or more of these family members might take one look at the loved one and launch into the “We have got to DO something”  mode.  There may even be verbal accusations that the caregiver is not doing enough or even worse, is neglecting ting the loved one.  Certainly this does not lend to feelings of merriment and joy.

If this Christmas is not a good one for you, you must remember to be kind to yourself.  Give yourself permission to stay away from the holiday parties, or the huge family gatherings.  If relatives are coming to visit your loved one, spread out their visits so that each one can be cherished.  When arranging for visitors, try to schedule them for the early afternoon, when your care recipient will have had time to complete their morning care without rush and before they have begun to become tired (if your loved one has dementia, remember that sundowning could pose a problem).

If there seems to be nothing merry about your Christmas, just acknowledge that fact and don’t dwell on it.  Yes, it’s going to be a crappy day but it’s JUST one day.   Attempt to find a few things that at least make the day a bit brighter.  You may have to dig, but it’s worth the digging.

As an example, here is my list:

  • There is snow on the ground and the sun is shining.
  • I was able to get out of bed today (I’ve been sick all week).
  • My kids called and did NOT act as if they were in a rush.
  • I can cook the duck roast in the convection oven (my other oven is broken and I can’t afford to fix it).
  • The store at the gas station was open and I was able to buy butter.
  • I don’t have to take the decorations down tomorrow (because I never put them up).
  • I have internet access and also the ability to call my mother in Canada (remember how expensive international calls used to be?)
  • I have great memories of my father.
  • I can still dance to the Christmas carols on the radio, even if it’s just by myself.

As you can see, these are not exciting things, and they won’t be applicable to everyone, but you get the idea.

Holidays will come and go and they will not all be perfect.  From the perspective of a caregiver, there may be several in a row that are far less than wonderful.  Still, we have much for which to be thankful and much for which to hope.  And when it comes to Christmas, what we are truly celebrating is the birth of the baby Jesus and therefore we rejoice….some years, just a little more quieter than others.

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