After the Holidays

“After the holidays,” families say between October and December, puzzled/annoyed memory care professionals would think there could be any other answer.

“There’s magic in the holidays,” memory care professionals say back, but never out loud, not to the family.

We know “after the holidays” means:

Please don’t bother me right now by telling me about a sudden/unexpected vacancy in your community. I’m deep in negotiations with God/the Universe/Time to have one more holiday season with my person. I can’t think about anything else.

I just need to find the perfect gifts. I have to make my family give a damn. I’ve got to get my partner’s kids on board because they don’t get it, they don’t see what’s going on right in front of their noses because they’re too busy to call, let alone visit.

And I need them to show up this year so they can see for themselves what everyday life is like and understand why I need to move their parent into memory care.

I’ve got to clean the house like it’s never been cleaned before because that way, when everyone comes, it will be the perfect holiday gathering we’ve always wanted.

Even though it’s never happened that way before.

Because this time is different. This time is the last time [my person] will be here at home with us.

Because if I clean thoroughly, if I put enough effort into finding the right gift, if I bake exquisitely, if I negotiate like I’ve never negotiated before, if I pretend hard enough, then the magic will take over and I won’t have to think about any of this and it’ll all be okay.

All that is what professionals mean when we say, “There’s magic in the holidays.”

 

There’s Magic(al Thinking) in the Holidays

More precisely, we mean, “There’s magical thinking in the holidays.” (The best definition of magical thinking I’ve encountered: “Believing in things more strongly than either evidence or experience justifies.” -Dr Alex Lickerman)

We see it every year.

And we want to help you every year. We want to wrap our arms around you and alleviate your pain every year.

Because we know this is the time of year where families really start noticing significant changes in their person, when they start thinking maybe, possibly, it’s getting close to time for memory care.

Yet as soon as that thought enters the conscious brain, that’s when fingers go in ears and loud choruses of “LALALALALALALALALA” ring throughout the land.

Because you don’t want to see what you’re seeing, or hear what you’re hearing, or know what you know.

And we get it. We really do. We’re human too. Most of us have been through this in our personal lives as well as numerous times in our professional lives.

We know you’re anxious, that you want to do the right thing, and you’re scared and overwhelmed.

 

Fear of the Unknown

Fear is gripping you: fear of the unknown, fear of the known, fear of making the wrong decision, fear of failing your person, fear of more anxiety instead of less if you do move forward.

Because what if you move your person into memory care and then they hate you? What if the rest of the family hates you? What if your person won’t go?

And what if it’s the wrong place? What if the care is bad? What if your person gets anxious?

Also, what if your person wants to go home? What if your person has to go to the hospital? Then what?

What if your person is bored? What if your person is the highest functioning person there? And what if your person refuses to participate in anything? What if your person has “behaviors”? What if your person gets cold, or scared, or is trying to say something the staff doesn’t understand?

And how could you possibly go on living like everything is okay when it’s not, when your person is in memory care and you’re right in your own home? What are you supposed to then? How could you live with the guilt?

 

Anxiety, Specified and Free-floating

Of course, there’s a lot of anxiety around making the move into memory care. There are the specifics, things like trying to figure out when it’s time (is this really it?) and how to find the right memory care community (is there such a thing?).

Having no idea what to expect, or how things really work behind the scenes doesn’t do anything to alleviate all that anxiety.

It’s the big things–like not knowing what’s normal inside memory care, or what kind of quality of life your loved one will have, or how they’ll manage “behaviors” that have stumped you so far, or that crop up out of nowhere–it’s all that and the so-called “little” things.

“Little” details like who provides transportation, and pharmacy services, and phone set up, and cable, and…and…and….Let alone figuring out how to have a great visit, or when, or for how long, or how to say goodbye at the end of a visit.

What about the best way to advocate for your loved one, or what to do with yourself now that your role seems so dramatically different?

And by the way–how on earth do you get your loved one to agree to go in the first place? How do you get them to actually go there on moving day?

Once you’ve ruminated on the specific points of anxiety, you can start with the free-floating anxiety, the anxiety that comes out of being anxious. The snake eating its tail. Except anxiety is the snake, and you’re the tail.

 

Actual, Practical Magic

Considering all this, it’s pretty obvious why you don’t have time for the call from the lady at the memory care who “just wants to chat” or invites you to “just drop by for a visit.”

It’s crystal clear why you’re negotiating so hard with God/the Universe/Time.

You need all this to go away. You need a respite from all this, even if it’s only just for the holidays.

And that’s where the actual, practical magic in the holidays comes in.

There are several ways to go about it, outlined below. The main thing is to make the decision you’re going for it.

 

Fill up on The Good Stuff

Respect, kindness, love, empathy, and compassion. This is The Good Stuff, and you can have as much of it as you like. Breathe out all the psychic goo that’s accumulated around you and in you. Heave it out like it’s poison, because it is. It’s all those fears and doubts and anxiety. Get rid of it. You don’t need it.

Instead, breathe in The Good Stuff. You deserve it. It’s your right to have it. Your best friend gives it to you in spades, and so does your Creator.

The only “catch” to The Good Stuff? It works best when you share it. The more you fill up on it, the more of it you have to share. And the more you share it, the more space you have to receive even more.

Share it with yourself, your person, your best friend. Share it with the clerk at the store. Share it with strangers. Share it in traffic.

Just stay in give and receive mode, because energy is contagious. Sleep well know you’re literally making the world a better place, spreading the best kind of energy.

 

Ask for Help

Ask for help. Believe you’ll get it. Receive it.

It really is that simple, but when we’re stuck in a cycle of fear and anxiety, our brains start lying to us, telling us that’s too simple and therefore can’t possibly work.

But it can, and it does. Here’s how:

Ask for help from people you can trust. Not people you wish you could trust. Not people who have a proven track record of letting you down.

Ask for help from people who love you, people who are on Team You, people who wish you the best.

Believe the people you asked will deliver on the help they’ve promised you. Believe you deserve the help you’ve asked for. Believe you’re worthy of being helped. Believe help is entirely possible.

Receive the help with a grateful heart. It may not look like what you expected. In fact, it may look better than what you’ve imagined. Receiving is easiest with open arms…and an open heart and mind.

 

Say No to Nonsense

Nonsense comes in many forms. It looks like difficult family members, nonstop cable news, negative people in your orbit. It also looks like over complicating situations, trying to be the Lone Ranger, and attempting to make everything (anything!) perfect.

“If you want something done right, do it yourself” is nonsense. The truth is, “If you want something done your way, do it yourself.” The best version of the truth is, “If you want to far, go together.”

We’re talking about dementia. You don’t even have time for nonsense.

 

Get Unstuck

30% of care partners will never get the help they need and deserve because they believe their situation can never get better. What a sad way to live. The weight of that belief is crushing, and it sure doesn’t help your person one iota.

The other 70% of care partners do get the help they need and deserve…but not always straight out of the gate. Sometimes they feel stuck.

Just like slamming down on the accelerator won’t get a car stuck in mud out of it–it takes a small but significant assist to make that magic happen–doubling down by continuing to do what you’re doing when you’re stuck isn’t going to get you unstuck.

Sometimes you need a small but significant assist. That could be in the form of a support group, respite care, sleep, self-care, or professional help.

 

Ready, Set, Go!

If you’re ready to do all these things–fill up on The Good Stuff, ask for help, say no to nonsense, and get unstuck–I’d be delighted to help you in any of the following ways.

 

Always Available

  • The Dementia Sherpa YouTube channel has about 200 videos. Everything from Quick Tips to longer, more in-depth conversations about a variety of dementia-related topics.
  • The Dementia Sherpa Facebook page has quite a few videos, too, plus inspirational posts and links to articles that are of interest to dementia care partners.
  • The blog has over 100 posts in 8 main categories, from “behaviors” to quality of life.
  • The Alzheimer’s Podcast runs weekly and has 69 episodes to date. (I’m the featured expert in about 50 of them.)

 

Limited Time Only

 

Schedule a complimentary call if you don’t have a strategy (you need one!), OR you know you need help but you’re not sure exactly what kind, OR you want to chat about working together as a private client or do a VIP Day.

Wishing you a blessed and easy week ahead, as well as loads of actual, practical magic during this holiday season!

 

Christy Turner is a speaker and consultant, founder of DementiaSherpa.com, and the featured expert on The Alzheimer’s Podcast. She’s enjoyed the privilege of working with over 1,500 people living with dementia and their families…including multiple experiences in her own family.