Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. Yeah, I like to eat and watch football and nap on the couch–all of that. I love being with family. But most of all, I love the simplicity of what the day is supposed to be–a celebration of just being together and being thankful. Nothing else. That’s awesome.
It is and always will be my favorite holiday, but this year I’m stressed. It’s been growing steadily since Halloween and escalated last week when I called to find Mom crying alone in her room. We’d spoken about the upcoming holidays the day before. Mom had asked me what she’d be doing for Thanksgiving so I told her:
You’ll be coming to our house for the Thanksgiving weekend
I’ll pick you up on Wednesday the 21st and bring you back on Sunday the 25th
It’ll be great to all be together for the holiday–the kids can’t wait to see you
You don’t need to remember this or write it down Mom, because we’ll talk lots before then
As a caregiver, I sometimes feel like I’m walking a communication tightrope. Torn between wanting to include her in planning and give her choice, but not at the expense of confusing or upsetting her. I’m forever fearful of wires crossing like they did in this case, trying to avoid things like what happened here.
Mom was under the impression that she was leaving her assisted living community–for good. Forever. And she was sad. So sad that she was crying about it the next day….when I called. How long had she been feeling like this? Has she been crying about this since we talked yesterday? It was an awful feeling of uncertainty and heartbreak–and it definitely escalated my angst about the 2018 edition of Thanksgiving.
A key part of any caregiver’s job is managing stress. I’m pretty good at it by now thanks in large part to my new found appreciation for self reflection. It didn’t come naturally to me, but I’m getting better at taking time to slow down and breathe on a daily basis. It keeps me grounded and helps me in understanding where stress is coming from–so I can deal with it. Otherwise it’s like I’m aimlessly fighting a boogeyman that I can’t see.
If I’m not putting my finger on the source (or sources) of stress, I can’t deal with it appropriately and it eats me up. As this Thanksgiving stress has snowballed, I haven’t been able to identify the source. As the snowball has grown, it’s bothered me more and more. So, where the heck is it coming from?
We celebrate Thanksgiving at my sister-in-law’s house. The usual (and lovable) suspects will be in attendance: The grandchildren (6 under the age of 11 to be exact.) My sister-in-law, my brother-in-law, my father-in-law (Steve), my brother-in-law’s parents and his sister and her husband and daughter. Along with Mom. It’s family–just like last year, or the year before, or the year before that and so on. Nothing new here that should be stressing me out.
Mom’s Current State?
Is it that Mom has declined? True, Mom’s symptoms have become more prevalent and obvious in the past year, but again, this is family. She sees most of these people all the time. They understand what to expect and appreciate what she’s going through as well as anyone can. That can’t be it.
Mom in a Big Group?
Could it be stress about Mom being in a bigger group for a more extended period of time? She does get a little flustered when she’s ‘off campus’ from her assisted living community and there’s no doubt it will be a long day. But there’ll be ample time and space for her to rest…and she’ll be with us. This shouldn’t be stressing me out either. I don’t think that’s it.
Five Days and a Lot of Car Time?
Mom will be with us for five days. Am I concerned with managing her medication over that time? Could that be it? I don’t think so. I’ll be in the car with Mom for a total of about 7 hours. Is it the car time? I love my car time with Mom. Don’t think that’s it either.
The more I think about all of these things, the more I come up empty. Which leads me to this:
“The Whole is more than the sum of its parts.” -Aristotle
I should really say that it leads me to a dementia caregiver holiday specific version of what Aristotle said. At any time, any of these topics could stress me out for one reason or another. In this case though, I’ve done inventory several times and don’t think any individual topic is the culprit. My developing opinion is that it’s the possibility of all of them–together–that is stressing me out.
What if 5 days out of her facility is too much or what if I mess up her meds or what if the car ride is too long Mom gets tired and as a result is extra confused or falls or is irritable and just has an altogether difficult horrible awful time that causes everyone to have a difficult horrible awful time and makes Mom not want to come visit or spend holidays with us anymore????
My Thanksgiving stress feels in my head like the big run-on sentence you just read. It’s the whole, not the sum of the individual parts that has me on edge. I’m not positive that’s it, but it’s as plausible a reason as any. And most importantly, it’s a place for me to start. With that, I can (hopefully) manage the stress between now and Thursday–and make Thanksgiving what it should be.
A day to cherish. A time to be together and to be thankful. Because we have a lot to be thankful for.
Are you stressed over Thanksgiving? What’s the culprit?