Welcome the Ghost of Christmas Past

Christmas is often a time of sorrow for families of those with any of the many forms of dementia. Often family and friends have stopped calling or visiting. Family relationships break down as one person provides daily care.

You may decide it’s just not worth it and spend the day trying to block out memories of happier times. I get it. But consider what may happen if you embrace the past for a few moments. You may be surprised by what your loved one remembers.

Welcome the Ghost of Christmas Past. Forget about putting up a tree if you don’t feel up to it. Don’t bother with a special meal unless someone delivers it to your door hot and ready to serve. Instead open the old albums and put out the oldest, most treasured ornaments. Play all the old Christmas carols. Cry for what is lost. Cry until the tears no longer come. Then, if you can, welcome the ghost of Christmas Past. Allow him to illuminate the memories you most treasure and share them with those in your care.

The image below is from Disney’s, A Christmas Carol, where the Ghost of Christmas Past appears as a candle illuminating events that formed the person Scrooge became.

ghost_of_christmas_past

Push aside the present and feel the love you shared on all the happy times you shared if not for the entire day, at least for a moment. The love and laughter you shared may be the most precious gift you receive this season.

One of my favorite treasured Christmas decorations from childhood is also a candle.

single-choir-boy-candle

This little guy, once part of a set of five, appeared in our home a few days before Christmas when I was eight years old. Upon our mothers passing in 2002 my sister, three brothers, and I each took one. Mine is now lopsided. His face is grimy from years of being packed away in newspaper, and his robe has a chip in it from being dropped a time or two. Despite the abuse he has endured over the years, he is far more precious than the thirty-five cents stamped on the sticker that still clings precariously to his underside tells us Mother paid for him.

If you have a favorite memory of Christmas past shared with the one in your care, feel free to post it in the comment section. I’d love to hear from you.

Five Practical Ways to Help Family With Mesothelioma

A Guest Post by Dani Alexis www.mesotheliomahelp.org

Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that affects the “mesothelium,” a layer of tissue found inside the lungs and lining other organs and areas of the body. Unlike some types of cancer, mesothelioma nearly always has a definable cause, like exposure to asbestos, silica dust, or similar substances.

Although the cause can often be pinpointed, that doesn’t change the reality of the disease or the fact that diagnosis often creates more questions than it answers.  Mesothelioma can leave a person who has it feeling helpless, angry, or afraid – and it can leave caregivers wondering what they can do to help.  Here are five concrete, practical ways you can make a difference.

  • Keep a health log. Mesothelioma is a progressive disease, and every person who has it responds to treatment a little differently. By taking on the task of tracking medications and making brief daily notes about your loved one’s health, you can help your loved one and their doctor spot patterns that will help to determine whether or not a particular treatment is working.
  • Become a good administrator. From keeping track of doctor’s appointments to making sure your loved one’s end-of-life plans are committed to writing, an illness like mesothelioma comes with a lot of paperwork. Spend a little time every day getting acquainted with your loved one’s current treatment plan, their insurance policies, and their estate plans.  Work with them to have yourself added to the list of people with whom their doctor may discuss their care.  Take these steps before you need to, so you’re ready if a crisis occurs.
  • Know your own rights. Millions of U.S. workers are covered by the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which allows them to take up to 12 weeks off work, unpaid, to care for a family member. Many workers also have compensation packages that allow them to take paid or unpaid time to care for a sick family member.  Check to see whether your workplace is covered by FMLA and what your compensation package offers, so you know how much time you have and what you need to do to protect your job and take care of your loved one.
  • Listen. Mesothelioma can be devastating news. The diagnosis often seems to come out of nowhere, and the fact that it can often be traced to a specific event, job, or time period can make the diagnosis seem even more unfair.  The best thing you can do for your loved one is to listen and encourage them to express their feelings. Your loved one may be feeling afraid, anxious, betrayed, angry, or hurt.  They may seem to have accepted the diagnosis one day, only to rage against the unfairness of it the next.  Remind them that their feelings are valid and that it’s okay to talk, cry, or process them in healthy ways, such as through journaling or exercise.
  1. Support yourself as well. It’s tough to be the “on call” person for your loved one all day, every day. Finding time for yourself can seem impossible.  That’s where a support group can help.  By connecting with other caregivers, you gain a place to safely process your feelings, as well as advice and guidance from others who are facing the same challenges you are.  Can’t find a support group for mesothelioma caregivers near you?  Try looking for support groups online or talking to those who provide care for family members with other chronic or serious conditions, such as cerebral palsy.  Even when the conditions are different, many of the tasks of caregiving – and the tips for making that caregiving easier – are the same.

www.mesotheliomahelp.org

If you are a caregiver for someone with mesothelioma, or know someone who is, and you would like a free Caregivers Are Heroes wrist band – send your request along with the complete mailing address including the street name and number, city, state, and zip code to me at bcarducci@comcast.net  (Continental U.S. address only).