November 27th, 2010 at 3:13 am
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Was Your Thanksgiving Day a Dress Rehearsal?

by Carol Bursack

Thanksgiving is over, and hopefully most of you who are caregivers were able to enjoy helping your elder celebrate to whatever degree they could. Some of you will have had cheery loved ones, while others just “made it through the day.” Often, with elders who are frail or sick, we really don’t know what a day will bring.

When I had multiple elders living in multiple places, each holiday was a challenge. I wanted to give everyone the holidays they were used to, and that, of course, was impossible. Therefore, I was hard on myself.

I kind of consider Thanksgiving the dress rehearsal for the Christmas holidays to come. Though I knew, of course, that the elders’ situations could change dramatically in the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I did feel some sense that, if things went reasonably well for one holiday, I had a jump on the next.

Remembering the Past

My mother had always loved the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas. She’d have most of her Christmas shopping done well before Thanksgiving, so she considered those weeks between the holidays prime time for decorating, baking, wrapping presents and enjoying the season fully. I would like to do the same, but have never been able to be quite so organized. Bless her, she was a whiz.

Lives for most caregivers are more complicated now. We have outside jobs. We often have multiple people who need our help, often people who have lived a long time in a frail condition.

Sometimes our elders live in different cities, which can present even more problems. Are you asking yourself, “Who do we spend the holidays with this year?” Maybe your parents are frail, and you’d really like to be with them at Christmas, as it may be their last. But you spent Thanksgiving with them, and your spouse’s parents are expecting you for Christmas. Come to think of it, their health is declining to. What to do?

Caring for people we love is an honor. Doing our best for them is our goal. The biggest problem for most of us is that we think our best must be perfect. Perfect won’t happen. The sooner we get that message, the better.

If Thanksgiving was a disaster, remember the old adage about plays. If the dress rehearsal is a mess, it’s often a good omen. The director, actors and producer learn from what went wrong, and try to fix it. These tweaks make for a better opening night.

However your Thanksgiving went, you’ll move on. You’ve tried your best and will continue to do so.. The whole journey is a challenge, but worthwhile. You aren’t likely to regret that you gave your best for your loved ones, even if it wasn’t always a smooth ride.

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