Caregiving Around the Holidays: Celebrating New Traditions

Ahh, the holiday season is in full swing. Retail stores are bustling with shoppers trying to find that perfect gift for those on their holiday list and perhaps buy a special gift for themselves. There’s an excitement in the air with family traditions that are handed down from generation to generation and celebrated each holiday season.

For years, my mother was the ‘ultimate holiday hostess.’ Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings were always at her house. So whenever her doorbell rang, my mother always stopped whatever she was doing – cooking holiday dinner, smoothing out someone’s hair, laughing on the phone, you name it, and answered the door so that SHE was the one personally greeting every person that stepped over her threshold. No one else was even allowed to answer that door around the holidays!

Another holiday memory I have is of my mother enlisting a paper printer across town to create personal holiday-themed stationary so that she could write a handwritten note to every family member (well over 20!) who came to her home. Every note was personalized for each person and I remember that it took her hours to write them all because she would note things that were specific for each person. And yes, my mother did this every year!

Those were memorable times for me – the fun, the details and most important, the LOVE that resonated throughout my mother’s home. She loved us and taught me early  the importance of learning ‘the little details’ that are unique to each person and to find ways to offer that in way of service and appreciation.

Since my beloved mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s back in 2012, my family holiday celebrations are far from the production level with which mom executed in years past, and that’s just fine. I won’t say that it didn’t take some time for me and my family to adjust because it did, but what I learned was to not try and be perfect with the holidays but to simply BE. If she wants to just sit alone quietly in her glider chair, then we let her be. If she wants to laugh at one of us for no reason at all, we simply let her be.

We’ve learned to simply enjoy her where SHE is in her journey and not try to recreate what she has already accomplished. Because let’s face it, my mom set a pretty high bar that neither I nor my family can ever surpass. The holidays for my family now are about celebrating the details my mother was known for while also celebrating new traditions FOR her… It’s our holiday gift in caring for and giving to her.

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