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Coping with the Holidays

Tuesday December 11, 2012

Susan Hamburger

www.myparkinsons.org - How did you do during the recent holiday period? I hope you all had a wonderful, peaceful holiday season. I truly hope that the mental and physical challenges of caregiving combined with the many preparations necessary for the holidays did not leave you feeling overwhelmed and unable to enjoy the family time.

For me, the holidays are always a reflective time of year because there are so many memories and traditions involved. I am finally learning however, that if I don't get everything done that I wanted to do its OK. I feel less pressure and we seen to have a better time.

If you were not able to enjoy the holidays because of stress, I'm very sorry. Remember that a lot of the stress- producing things we do are of our own choosing. I recently had a conversation with a friend who said she did 'everything' for her husband and he never said 'thank you' or said that he appreciated what she did for him. She was angry and seemed bitter about it.

During busy times there are so many things to do that if you try to do 'everything' for someone, you would never get the holiday preparations done. That would make me both nervous and angry. My solution is the same as it is every day, which is to let Stan do 'everything' for himself – UNLESS he is unable to do it. Then I am happy to help him and I do not feel angry and resentful or, look for frequent thanks from him. Stan has had Parkinson's Disease for 20 years and is probably between stages 4 and 5, but he CAN sometimes do things for himself, such as make himself a sandwich when he is hungry, pick up his own clothes off the floor, clean up the dishes after dinner, etc. I take this approach of not treating him like he is sick mostly for myself, because I see it as a burden to have to do 'everything' for him, but it's also much better for him. He feels like he is not totally dependent, that he can function well at times, and that he is doing something to help ME. He often tells me that he has to take care of me too. That attitude is very important.

I think as the New Year begins that we should all be reminded of the important points in the Caregiver's Bible. We have seen it before, but please reread it, take it to heart, and evaluate whether there is more that you can do for yourself.

The Caregivers' Bible*

Maintain social contacts and as many activities as possible.

Formally and in writing schedule respite time for yourself on a dailyor weekly basis.

Even a few minutes a day can make a difference in your outlook. Stick to that schedule.

Involve other relatives in the care of the care recipient early on, including multiple-day care over weekends and holidays.

Do not martyr yourself. No one should expect to provide all care every day without help. If you can, get a job or activity away from home for periods of time.

Make sure that children and siblings understand the disease. Let them assume caregiving duties for short periods, so they experience first-hand the stress you experience as a caregiver. They, too, will suffer doubt, denial, guilt and anger, and the fury may be directed at you.

Guilt and anger are normal emotions. Recognize them for what they are, and avoid acting on them. Anger usually accompanies a sense of guilt.

The incidence of headache, insomnia, backache or other physical symptoms during caregiving can be stress-related, stemming from unresolved anger, guilt and/or depression. Nearly all caregivers are physically affected by the care recipient's illness. Face that fact and accept it. To remain an effective caregiver, you must take time out for yourself.