Ghosts of Thanksgivings Past
Caregiving through the holidays: keep it in perspective
Hello KIRC fam!
Did you have a positive Thanksgiving holiday? As urged in our last update, I hope you made an effort to carve out a few minutes for yourself. How did you celebrate the holiday?
This year I took my own advice and had a very low key and quiet holiday. I skipped…
The mad rush to shop for food items
Hours spent preparing a meal
Figuring out how to rearrange the fridge to fit everything
Stressing over pulling out ‘the good’ dishes and glasses
Hoping everything would turn out tasty and satisfying
Oh wait… did I just describe some of you? If so, that’s okay. Sometimes the rush of the stress if part of the holiday mood, right?!
There was none of that for me this year. I slept in. I had a good breakfast. I worked out. And as the day evolved, me and my husband took an afternoon hike to explore a nearby wildlife refuge.
Quiet. Peaceful. Serene. It gave me a few moments to unplug and reflect. I thought about my mother, Mrs. Nellie Yarbough. I miss her. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think of her in some way. In the calm of the holiday, I envisioned Thanksgivings of the recent past.
There is sadness, but also a strange sense of peace as I allow myself to review those years. Years when we all knew my mother was inching closer to her grande finale.
Because of that, each holiday took on a different significance. After all, there was an unspoken acknowledgement: This one just might be the last.
Time marches on
Thanksgiving 2016 - our oven went on the blink a few weeks before Thanksgiving. Our fix? We took mom to an area casino/resort for their Thanksgiving dinner, a bit of BINGO and a few slots. That made her happy.
Thanksgiving 2017 - I cooked and prepared (everything from scratch) the full traditional feast, including sweet potato pie, pumpkin pie, and fresh cranberry sauce. Incidentally, mom simply wanted her trusted Ocean Spray block from the can. That made her happy.
Thanksgiving 2018 - Mom was winding down, and my work schedule was pretty intense. All agreed Thanksgiving-in-a-box would be okay. The folks at HoneyBaked Ham came through for us. We were content.
As a family caregiver, one learns to pay close attention to the ebbs and flows of the health of your loved one. 2019 was filled with so many trips to the local hospital emergency room, that staff and doctors knew us.
Mom slept more hours than she was awake. Medications increased as her Parkinson’s disease advanced and mobility lessened. She experienced bouts of hallucinations with mom insisting people and animals which were not there - were in fact in our home. These were scary and stressful times for all of us.
If your loved one has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, I encourage you to begin educating yourself about this disease, the progression, and symptoms caregivers should be aware of. I found this downloadable guide from The Michael J. Fox Foundation extremely helpful.
Thanksgiving 2019 - Something was telling me, make the full effort…
I prepared the roasted turkey ( I even made gravy with bits of the giblets for mom), mashed white and whipped sweet potatoes, turnip greens, cornbread dressing, cranberry sauce, apple pie, sweet potato pie, and biscuits with plenty of butter. I pulled out the ‘good china’ - which I remember mom serving ‘fancy’ meals on from years ago.
All of our instincts were correct. That indeed was my mother’s final Thanksgiving holiday.
Caring for the caregiver
I am thankful for the opportunity to have been able to give my mother what I ‘hope’ were positive experiences as she reached her final chapter.
My wish for you as we enter into the thick of holiday season?
Push through the moments of overwhelm or tiredness or stress and remember: one day this will come to an end.
Do what you can to provide safety, support, and proper care to your loved one in these moments. You’ll be glad you did.
And when it is over commit to giving yourself that same amount of love and care. You’ll have plenty of time - just not your loved one.
Until next time~