Planning a Joyful Holiday With a Loved One in Hospice Care
The holiday season is here, and if you have a loved one in hospice care in San Francisco and elsewhere, it may not seem quite as joyous as it used to. You’re probably very busy visiting your loved one and making preparations. But the holidays can be filled with joy, gratitude, and hope as we embrace the spirit of the season and celebrate with our loved ones. While it may be the last thing you feel like doing, and perhaps have some guilt associated with it, it’s important to plan a joyful holiday with your loved one in hospice care. Here’s how.
Engage in Reminiscence Therapy
There’s no better way to pass the time and see the smile on people’s faces than when reminiscing. Go through the house and gather photo albums, journals, and books, and find some old home movies. This is a great way to spark long-lost memories, especially in those suffering from Alzheimer’s. It’s easy to let the challenges of hospice cast a pall over a more joyful and fulfilling past, particularly when you sense your loved one is slowly slipping away. Recapture that spark with reminiscence therapy, which helps you:
- Recall events from the past using all your senses. You can show your loved one various objects and encourage them to see, smell, taste, hear, or hold them. The point of reminiscence therapy is to connect people to far-off memories to restore that sense of familiarity, especially for the elderly who may have isolated themselves from their identities because of failing cognitive health, according to Assisted Living Today.
- Distract yourself and your loved one from everyday challenges.
- Improve methods of communication.
- Boost self-confidence.
- Sideline depression.
- Preserve family stories so future generations can enjoy them.
Relieve Discomfort During the Holidays
One big thing that can sideline the holiday spirit for your loved one in hospice is pain and discomfort. Making them as comfortable as possible is the goal of hospice. But even more so than the pain associated with their condition, don’t neglect to manage smaller sources of discomfort, like skin irritation and facial dryness around the eyes and lips. Aging dries out the skin naturally, and makes it more fragile. Those who are bed-bound by this point will need help applying moisturizer or lip balm. Help them out. Choose alcohol-free lotion to moisturize their dry skin, while using lip balm to prevent chapping, advises the National Institute on Aging. Place a cool, damp cloth over their eyes and give them ice chips to suck on to relieve dry mouth.
While your loved one may want to be surrounded by family and friends, having them all over at once is too overwhelming. Parcel those visits and gatherings out to keep them calm. Just remember that each person has a different set of preferences and comfort levels, so before you schedule anything, such as baking cookies with the grandkids or hosting a holiday party, take the time to ask them how they want to celebrate the holiday season. Too many distractions can have the opposite effect of what you want, so try to keep the noise to a minimum, as well as the gathering sizes, so your parent remains happy and comfortable.
Be prepared for emotional outbursts and handle them with calmness and sincerity. The fact that this could be their last holiday season with the family is likely weighing on them deeply, which may be expressed in sadness and crying. In others, they may want to fill every moment with togetherness. Some unobtrusive ideas to celebrate include putting on some Christmas carols or watching a favorite holiday classic on TV with them. Don’t over-decorate their house, which is overwhelming and also poses a trip hazard.
Tell Them How You Feel
As your loved one possibly faces their last holiday season, this is the ideal opportunity to express thanks and appreciation for all that they have done for you. Don’t assume they know how much you appreciate them. Verbalize those thoughts. Gratitude is powerful, and it means a lot more than simply saying thank you.
In fact, it’s a whole mindset that shifts the focus and dynamic from negative to positive through giving thanks and affirmation. While you’re at it, tell everyone else you’re close to how much you appreciate them to keep the positivity train going. As you continue to embrace the festivities of the season, don’t neglect giving thanks to the professional caregivers and volunteers who have helped you all year long and relieved some of the burdens you have had to carry. They make a conscious choice to be there for your loved one even though they have families too.
As the holiday season progresses, focus on the joy that comes with sharing special times with your loved one in hospice.