Thursday, December 1, 2011

Guest Author: Michael Byrd

A Caregiver’s Christmas Carol

For so many caregivers, our favorite Christmas traditions have been set aside. The holiday can seem like just another day of hardship and struggle as we press on with our toils. Like Bob Cratchit in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, we slave along each day to the thankless task master of Dementia Scrooge. No matter what we do, it seems never enough, and how dare we ask anything for ourselves? Cherished elements of our personal life are slowly consumed by Scrooge’s demands until even the Tiny Tim of hope faces death. 

We, like Ebenezer, are all presented with the same choice, though our circumstances may vary. We can plod on, closed to the joys of life as we let it slip by, or we can grasp life anew and enjoy the time we have remaining. Our struggle is to reclaim the hope and joy of Christmas, this, and every year, no matter what Dementia Scrooge may do. 

This Christmas, Go back with Christmas Past and have fun with it again. If our loved ones remember stringing popcorn as Christmas tree decorations, and they are still able to do it, then why not enjoy the time and memories together? What brought you joy as a child at Christmas? Why not try those now? Knowing that a loved one’s long term memory is far better than his or her short term memory, ask about their favorite Christmas traditions. This may be a surprising journey. Stories we’ve never heard will surface, and their joy will be contagious as we embrace much of their hidden past in new family traditions. 

Doing this will not only provide happy nostalgia for you as new pictures are taken, but it may make your loved one with dementia even more comfortable as older memories are often easier to grasp. What Christmas cookies did you each enjoy as a child? What were your favorite Bing Crosby tunes? Get a copy of Burl Ives’ “Holy Jolly Christmas,” and watch the memories return with your loved one. Don’t focus on doing many things; focus on doing a few things throughout each day that you truly enjoy. Because those with Alzheimer’s often live more comfortably in the past, embrace that rather than being irritated by it. You can both enjoy some times gone by.

This Christmas, hear the words of a healthy Tiny Tim: God bless us, every one.


....Petty Witter said...

What a wonderfully heartwarming post, many thanks.

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