Christmas and caregiving. You’ve got to be kidding.
Add more to your plate? How?
Christmas–buying the tree, the gifts, wrapping the gifts, decorating the outside of the house, the inside of your house, oops–go back out and buy little gifts for your neighbors and all the other people who help you, whip up some family recipe cookies or pound cake. Oh, and do all this looking good and smiling? See? I forgot Christmas cards, you gotta send Christmas cards.
Try doing this with a mother who has Parkinson’s and walks slow and shaky as you try to race through Costco. Try pulling Christmas off with an Alzheimer’sdad who has sundowner’s syndrome and keeps you up all night. Try to fit in shopping in between physical therapy appointments and making sure your kids get a few things they want from Santa.
Christmas adds another week’s worth to your life–EASY.
Now, add caregiving on top of that. Add the stress of family dynamics, all the extra work, that and the fact that either your kids or your mom or dad or someone will decide now is the time to get sick spread it to everyone else, or just to become like, ten times more difficult!
Sounds like I lived this? Yeah. I’ve been there, and your holiday goodwill goes right out the window.
I wrote this vignette in my book, Mothering Mother about my mother eating breakfast while I’m taking down the Christmas tree and she decides that the ornament is her drink cup. Alzeimer’s at least allows for a few fun/crazy/silly/times–and take full advantage of it–you need the laugh!
I call this “my circuit breaker time.”
When the circuit breakers blow, you just have to improvise.
My suggestion? Start whittling down on that giant Christmas list.
This is commando Christmas, and caregiver’s gotta do what a caregiver’s gotta do.
Figure out what you don’t want to do, that gets on your last nerve, and you never liked it in the first place. Nix those first.
Is it Christmas cards? Nix ’em. Next year might be better, but maybe this year is a “not on your life” Christmas card year. If they’re worried because they haven’t heard from you, they’ll call. If they don’t call, they aren’t that worried.
Forget outside lights. If it doesn’t just make your heart go pitter patter to drive up and see your house all decked out, then nix ’em.
Tree? How about a table top tree? Pre-lit. Take it out of the box and plug it in. If you don’t feel like digging your decorations out of the attic, then buy a $1.99 box of glass ornaments in your favorite color and stand back and enjoy. If this sounds like Christmas sacrilege, and you could never ever do this, then I understand. Everyone has their “thing.” But if this makes you take a sigh and relax, then buy that teeny tree, stick on a dozen balls and let it go.
If you really feel like your head’s going to explode, then order Christmas dinner. If you’re on a budget, then order it from the grocery store or Cracker Barrel or some place that’s not high end. If you can swing it, then go for a gourmet meal, but I bet it might just come out cheaper than buying all the ingredients and cooking it yourself. My Christmas week groceries have easily run $500.00 before–when I was feeding three teens, a few boyfriends (my girls boyfriend, not mine:) and my mother.
My suggestion is, if this is a particularly challenging/difficult year, then cut back, cut back, cut back–until Christmas is doable. Make it sweet and easy.
Christmas isn’t supposed to be so much work that you resent it and dread it.
Find one holy, quiet moment and appreciate the season. It can come at the craziest, most chaotic time, but if you’re on the look out for it, you’re more likely to attract it.
Have a cup of hot tea and hum your favorite Christmas Carol. It’s a start!
~Carol D. O’Dell
Author of Mothering Mother: A Daughter’s Humorous and Heartbreaking Memoir
by Kunati Publishing
available on Amazon and in most bookstores