- Keep It Festive
- Make sure you find something every day to bring you joy.
It may be a baby’s laugh, or smelling a rose, or telling a joke that breaks a loved one’s sense of depression or isolation. It may be preparing the world’s best clear chicken broth for a patient who’s having trouble keeping food down, or it may be just a few minutes holding hands while favorite holiday music plays.
- Identify a few key elements of your traditions that you can maintain. James, who has been fighting multiple myeloma for over 20 years, spent three Christmases either in the hospital or away from home as a result of treatments or bone marrow transplants. When he was hospitalized, family members brought a tiny artificial tree with a few artificial ornaments and put it up in his room. They gave him gifts that would make him and others laugh; can you imagine lounging pants with reindeer on them, or a “Bah, Humbug!” sign hanging on the IV stand? His wife even donned a mask and gloves and used pasteurized egg whites to make icing for his favorite holiday cookies while he was in isolation.
- Maintain some of the traditions, like Christmas Eve Mass and decorated sugar cookies, or lighting the Chanukah Menorah and giving the kids chocolate coins.
- Keep It Simple
- Thanksgiving is a particularly challenging time because there is so much emphasis on fixing an elaborate meal. So:
- If the patient can’t eat or isn’t strong enough to leave home, have guests come to you.
- Plan a group meal for which each guest brings a dish and people volunteer for dish-washing patrol. The point is to be social, not to be Superman or Superwoman.
- Accept offers of help from friends and neighbors. Consider buying some of the items that you used to make (unless the “nesting” process of cooking is therapy for you).
- Accept invitations to join friends for dinner, so you don’t have to cook or clean.
- At home, if you decorate, bring out only your favorite ornaments. Keep decoration simple, and focus on things that remind you of the good times.
- Consider postponing gift-giving completely and focus on togetherness. For adults, time with family and friends is usually far more enriching than opening presents.
- If you must shop for gifts, find ways to do holiday shopping on line or by phone, for things like a decorated tabletop tree or a basket of fruit or cheese goodies. Also consider developing a theme, like “laughter” or “comfort” that can focus gift-giving and divert from the daily stresses of treatment.
- Think about playing a game (like the New Yorker Cartoon Captions Game, which involves writing captions for cartoons) with family or friends that will bring laughter and good feelings.
- Let people do things for you. Keep a notepad handy for noting who brought you things and when you thanked them. You might even want to keep some little bags of Hershey’s Kisses or Ghirardelli mints next to your front door as a thank-you so you don’t have to write thank-you notes.
- Keep It Social
- Keep It Positive
*Special thanks to Kathleen Bond, a 20-year caregiver, for her valuable input.