Approaching the Holidays with an Attitude of Gratitude

Christmas will be here next week followed by many festivities throughout New Years. As a caregiver or care manager for a loved one, trying to keep up old family holiday traditions plus the addition of visiting family members can be overwhelming. Stress can replace any enjoyment of the holidays.

Take a deep breath. Remember what they say on the airplane – if the oxygen masks are deployed, put on your mask before helping anyone else with theirs. The first job of a caregiver or care manager is to care for themselves so they can then care for their loved one.

So, let’s take a healthier direction. Instead of approaching the holiday season with dread - approach the holidays with an attitude of gratitude for what you have. Take out a stack of index cards – Christmas colors make it more fun. Write something that you are thankful for related to your loved one on each card.

Here is part of my list:

I have been blessed to have a mother who was a power house in her day. She raised six children while remaining very active in community service and civic organizations as well as women’s organizations at the local and state level - all while continuing to sing as soloist and in a women’s quartet. She gave us a love of music and the arts. She taught us the importance of our faith and community service. She was strong and self-reliant.

As Mom’s eyesight and health declined, she and Dad needed to make the move to assisted living. She looked forward to the move and helped pick her apartment. Finally, she would no longer have to cook or clean.

A few years later she decided it was time to move to the nursing wing. Her choosing to transition to higher levels of care at the appropriate time was a gift to herself and her children for which we are thankful.

I am thankful that we will celebrate mom’s 99th birthday on December 26. Even though Mom has lost much of her sight and has difficulty getting around, she is still with us and still has her sense of humor and loving personality. I am thankful that I have lots of siblings and family members who love to plan parties – that is not my forte.

I am thankful for finding the best facility for Mom. Every assisted living/nursing home has its own personality with strengths and weaknesses. The trick is to have the guidance to find the one that matches with your loved one’s needs and quality of life. Music and flowers were important parts of mom’s life. When I visit, we are able to take a wheelchair stroll around the colorful gardens or attend a concert or worship service at her facility. I was also able to move my challenged sister in with Mom and Dad. Sis now lives on her own in the independent wing and can walk over to see Mom every day. That is a quality of life benefit for both Mom and sister.

I am thankful for the wonderful, caring staff. Mom is appreciative of everything that is done for her. Her grateful attitude toward her caregivers in turn improves their attitude toward her. You catch more bees with honey. They respond quickly when she buzzes for help. They assist as needed with her meals. They know which music events she will enjoy and make sure she attends. I am especially thankful that with good, professional caregivers, I am able to be the daughter rather than a caregiver.

Now that you have written your index cards of gratitude, share them with your loved ones. Have a wonderful holiday season!!