Friday is "decorating day" at work. In the Community Life office, where all things creative happen, red bags of Christmas trees line the walls and boxes and bins of glittering decorations are everywhere. At 9:00, staff who usually spend their day in front of a computer screen will join those of us who work on the first floor, and Christmas will gush forth in one gigantic splash.
I dread it.
I love it.
I dread it because there's no doubt it's a lot of work. And what goes up must come down.
I love it because residents love it. It doesn't matter if you're 9 or 90, there's a magic in the air when the lights go on the tree and Christmas music starts. Maybe I'll even put a Hallmark movie on the TV.
For the care partner, decorating for Christmas can seem like an enormous mountain to climb. We've already talked about choosing what's important. Here are a few more suggestions as you prepare your home for Christmas.
5. Spread decorating over several days
I've noticed people often post their christmas progress on Facebook.
"The tree is up."
"Shopping is done."
When did Christmas become a race to the finish line?
How about spreading decorating over a week or two. A wreath here, and advent calendar there, the tree today and the mantle tomorrow. People with dementia can quickly be overcome by sensory overload, and elders often tire easily. Imagine what it would be like to take the pressure off. Complete one part of the decorating and sit and admire what's done. Look at the lights. Appreciate the miniature village. Exclaim together over ornaments and the memories they inspire. The Christmas tree might take a few days to complete, and that's okay. Your elder's participation and enjoyment of the experience is what matters. Realize there's going to be some boxes and confusion for as long as it takes to get finished, but allow yourself the luxury of time. Take mental, or actual, pictures of the joy and wonder as the decorated house slowly takes shape.
6. Be flexible and keep it short
This applies to Christmas day and to all social gatherings during the season. There are pros and cons to every event, and you need to take your best guess at what will work for your loved one. Have a plan A, but ensure B, C, and D are in your back pocket. Here are some questions when assessing what will work best.
a) What is their best time of day?
b) Does a nap help, or does it make them groggy and out of sorts?
c) Do they enjoy having lots of families around, or do they prefer small groups?
It may be that visits need to be spread over several occasions. One family had each group come for lunch over the season. Their loved one's best time was around lunch, and he was able to enjoy time with each of his children and grandchildren in intimate./groups. When Christmas day came, one child hosted it, and the parents arrived mid-morning. Dad had a nap in the afternoon while mom visited with everyone, but she also knew that if he needed to, they would leave. She was flexible, realizing that plan A might not pan out.
It's rare to find someone who doesn't put pressure on themselves at Christmas. Be the smart care partner with realistic expectations and flexible plans.
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