For those who care for someone with Parkinson's disease

Parkinson's disease Caregiver Commentary

Coping with the Holidays
By Susan Hamburger

Editors Note: Susan was caregiver to her husband Stan, diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 1980. He passed away on August 12, 2008 at the age of 73.

How did you do during the recent holiday period? I hope you all had a wonderful, peaceful holiday season. I truly hope that the mental and physical challenges of caregiving combined with the many preparations necessary for the holidays did not leave you feeling overwhelmed and unable to enjoy the family time.

For me, the holidays are always a reflective time of year because there are so many memories and traditions involved. I am finally learning however, that if I don't get everything done that I wanted to do its OK. I feel less pressure and we seen to have a better time.

If you were not able to enjoy the holidays because of stress, I'm very sorry. Remember that a lot of the stress- producing things we do are of our own choosing. I recently had a conversation with a friend who said she did 'everything' for her husband and he never said 'thank you' or said that he appreciated what she did for him. She was angry and seemed bitter about it.

During busy times there are so many things to do that if you try to do 'everything' for someone, you would never get the holiday preparations done. That would make me both nervous and angry. My solution is the same as it is every day, which is to let Stan do 'everything' for himself – UNLESS he is unable to do it. Then I am happy to help him and I do not feel angry and resentful or, look for frequent thanks from him. Stan has had Parkinson's Disease for 20 years and is probably between stages 4 and 5, but he CAN sometimes do things for himself, such as make himself a sandwich when he is hungry, pick up his own clothes off the floor, clean up the dishes after dinner, etc. I take this approach of not treating him like he is sick mostly for myself, because I see it as a burden to have to do 'everything' for him, but it's also much better for him. He feels like he is not totally dependent, that he can function well at times, and that he is doing something to help ME. He often tells me that he has to take care of me too. That attitude is very important.

I think as the New Year begins that we should all be reminded of the important points in the Caregiver's Bible. We have seen it before, but please reread it, take it to heart, and evaluate whether there is more that you can do for yourself.

The Caregivers' Bible*

*Source unknown

About the Author
Susan Hamburger earned a Bachelors Degree from the University of Wisconsin in Elementary Education, and two Master's Degrees, in Educational Psychology and Biostatistics/ Epidemiology. She has been a kindergarten teacher, a school psychologist, and retired as Biostatistician at the National Institute of Mental Health.

Susan has served on the Board of local Parkinson's disease support group organizations since the early 1990's. She has served Chair of the Patient Services Committee, Vice-President and President of the Washington DC area chapters of the Amercican Parkinson's Disease Association and the National Parkinson's Disease Foundation. Susan has also spent many hours on Capitol Hill, lobbying our Senators and Representatives to increase the funding for Parkinson's disease research.

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