If it weren’t for select dates on the calendar, caregivers would take no breaks. Like medical personnel, law enforcement, soldiers, utility workers, and more, there are no breaks during the holidays for caregivers. While some employees may benefit from the upside of working on these days; most family caregivers don’t even get paid!
Since family caregivers’ options are limited over the holidays, I hosted get-togethers for us orphans. Whether those being cared for joined us or were in residential care, caregivers felt comforted by being among those who understood. Who better to know what a person with dementia needs than fellow caregivers. Over the years, we grew into a caregiver family and learned each other’s traditions. For example, I simply tossed the turkey carcass. As I held it above the kitchen garbage, one caregiver gasped. From her, I learned about making turkey stock. To this day, no fowl’s bones are tossed without first being used for stock.
Despite these caregiver gatherings, I remained a bit jaded about the holidays throughout the year. All the marketing and consumerism was getting to me.
Before Thanksgiving, while Christmas-related products were finding their ways onto store shelves and in commercials, Santa had a message for us in a popular graphic circling the Internet. “I want to enjoy some turkey first.” If we followed the advice of advertisers, we’d never be happy unless we were redecorating our homes constantly and buying new clothes every season.
When we lose our sense of values, we begin to hear things like, Happy Memorial Day! Really? What are you saying? “How do I have a happy Memorial Day?” Without skipping a beat, some offer suggestions! “Get together with your friends and enjoy a hearty BBQ.” Pressing the issue further hasn’t even addressed our soldiers and their families’ sacrifice. And don’t forget to visit your local car dealer or furniture store for those Memorial Day specials.
Yet, if it weren’t for the holidays, many of us would keep working. We wouldn’t take breaks. We wouldn’t even take the time to get together with family and friends.
As an entrepreneur, if it weren’t for the people in my life to remind me to take time off, I’d keep working.
When people ask, “What are you doing for [holiday]?” “Do you have any plans for [holiday]?” I pause to consider how can I break the routine and do something different that will energize me.
I plan something unknown, unpredictable, and atypical.
How to take advantage of future holidays.
- Bring in the New Year with 350,000 people along a 4-mile stretch of the Las Vegas Strip.
Make sure you’ve arranged your loved one’s care, first!
- If you’re no longer a caregiver, consider showing a little love with a box of chocolates and flowers for a lonely elder on Valentine’s Day.
Love is shared and what you give will warm your heart.
- Visit a Veterans Cemetery on Memorial Day with your loved one.
Share memories about pastimes or walk quietly along the gardens.
- Plan a pleasant spring day at the beach or among the flowers.
One day, we took my father to the beach. Another time, we hiked among the poppy fields.
- Tag along with someone else’s plans.
When our friend told us he was planning a day-trip to Catalina Island, I asked him to take my father along. To give him an incentive we paid for the whole day including a roundtrip charter helicopter flight.
- Do fun stuff with the staff and residents in a residential care home.
While my father lived in skilled nursing, we asked for and received permission to gather several residents for soda and popcorn while watching the July 4th Fireworks. At the end of the year, we personally delivered pizzas around the clock for three shifts. Night shift was in tears as families often forget about them and focus on the day and afternoon/evening shifts.
Break up your routine so you have something new to look forward to. The unpredictability will energize you.
Regardless of how jaded we may get, these holidays give us an opportunity to step back and reflect. Even if we have to work, we can take a brief break. A five-minute caregiver respite is all it takes to change direction. It may open new insights for an even longer break.
For more, read Take a Caregiver Holiday – 3 Tips.