Holiday caregiving tips for caregivers

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 14, 2019

By Paulette Stiles

Rowan Public Library 

As the holidays approach, it is easy to become stressed and distracted with work, social invitations, food preparations, holiday shopping and decorating. Many a holiday is spent rushing from one event and store to another, remembering the holiday only after it has passed rather than truly savoring the occasion.

Moments with a senior member of your family, or one you care for, offer the opportunity to slow down, engage, connect, and bring joy back to a holiday in ways you might not expect. Rowan Public Library has many books that might be helpful for caregivers of seniors during the holidays.

The book “You Say Goodbye and We Say Hello: the Montessori Method for Positive Dementia Care” (2012) by Tom and Karen Brenner offers some truly inspired tips and exercises for connecting to the senior in your life.

The Montessori Method, according to the authors, “is based on finding people’s remaining strengths and their spared abilities.” The authors offer little sayings called Guideposts such as “Forget the word ‘remember’ ” and “Asking for help provides others with the opportunity to be in a state of grace.” These provide encouraging landmarks to remember when engaging seniors during the holidays.

While this book was specifically designed for individuals with dementia, the exercises can be useful for all seniors and offer a way to share activities with family members during the holiday season.

The Brenners point out that memory can be supported through many avenues. One method is tactile interaction and involves finding things that can be held in the hands such as a favorite fishing fly or a cherished Christmas ornament. So sorting ornaments together can be therapeutic.

Music, such as a favorite tune or hymn, will be remembered long after other memories fade, so a game of “Name that Tune” can be enjoyed by everyone. Creating and playing word games that match sayings with the final word, such as “Happy as a… ?” with “clam,” can be fun for the whole family. One word game that matches “Let me call you…?” with “sweetheart” incorporates tunes and can bring on joyful rounds of singing.

Smells provide powerful memory clues too, especially scents such as herbs, spices or an old cologne. Games that match scents with names or people can spur memories and create new memories for young ones.

Creativity can also be a catalyst for remembering things, too. According to the authors, games or activities that incorporate procedural memory (or muscle memory) particularly of something a senior used to do, such as puzzle making, arranging tools in a toolbox, or arranging flowers in a vase can unlock lovely memories of mastery.

Other books that might be helpful for caregivers of seniors during the holidays include “The Long Hello” (2016) by Cathie Borrie, a deeply moving and insightful memoir of a daughter caring for a mother with Alzheimer’s.

Many men are caregivers and James V. Gamgone’s “Who Says Men Don’t Care?” (2011) is a slim easy read from a man’s view of caregiving that offers a supportive framework for decision-making.

“The Unexpected Journey of Caring“ (2019) by Donna Thomson offers poignant insight from the caregivers point of view that eloquently explores the nuances of difficult transitions a caregiver experiences.

RPL also offers free holiday events and entertainment for people of all ages including movies, holiday ballet, book clubs and writers clubs. The holidays can be stressful and full of anxiety for everyone, especially caregivers and seniors. However, by taking a few moments to plan some gentle activities connecting seniors with family and friends, much of the stress can begin to melt away as everyone begins to relax and enjoy the holidays once more.

Cards for a Cause: Through Dec. 18, headquarters, East and South. Create holiday cards that will be delivered to active service members in the U.S. armed forces and to veterans at the Hefner VAMC in Salisbury. Patrons can specify  their card(s) be delivered to a certain branch or to the VA. The deadline has passed for cards submitted for a branch of the armed forces internationally; Dec. 6 is the deadline for cards distributed stateside. Cards submitted Dec. 7-18 will only be delivered to the VA. For more information, contact Tammie at 704-216-7842.

Friends of RPL concert series: Nov. 21, 7 p.m., headquarters Based out of Wilkesboro, the Trailblazers perform a blend of Bluegrass, Americana, folk and jazz. They are the 2018 International Bluegrass Music Association Momentum Band of the Year. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. This free concert is open to the public, and all ages are welcome. For more information, call 704-216-8243.

Cards for a Cause and Saturday Cinema: Nov. 23, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., South. Create holiday cards for service members and veterans while enjoying Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas.” The film, which has two-hour runtime, will be shown at 10 a.m. and noon. Light refreshments will be served. This event is free, open to the public, and all ages are welcome. Participation in Cards for a Cause is not required, though both events will be held simultaneously in the Meeting Room. For more information, call 704-216-7727.

Holiday Card Circuitry: Nov. 18, 4 p.m., South; Nov. 19,  4 p.m., headquarters; Nov. 21, 4 p.m., East. Learn how to design a paper circuit and create a light-up, holiday-themed card. This teen program is designed for rising sixth- through 12th-graders. For more information, call Sydney at 704-216-8229.

Bucket List — Start Your Own Business: Nov. 18, 6-7:30 p.m., headquarters. Find out how to start that business you’ve been dreaming about. Learn from the experts from Rowan’s Idea Center about the local resources (including library resources) that are available to help local entrepreneurs come up with an idea, develop a business plan, and turn it into a reality. Questions? Call Abby at 704-216-8248.

RPL Book Talk: Nov. 18, 7 p.m., South. Local author and fitness enthusiast David Freeze will share pictures and stories from his latest solo biking adventure from Nevada to Alaska. Freeze, who has journeyed through 49 states, will be discussing his latest book. A book signing and reception will follow. Call 704-216-7727 for more information.

Big Library Read: Through Nov. 18, headquarters, East and South. Big Library Read (BLR), facilitated by OverDrive, is a free, global e-Book Club. The global event provides instant access to one book for two weeks without wait lists or holds, connecting readers in the largest digital library book club in the world. To participate, all you need is your library card. Visit for full details, including the November selection.

Scavenger Hunt: Through Nov. 30, Turkey Hunt, headquarters, South. Can you find all the turkeys hidden throughout the children’s room?  Complete the challenge and get a prize! For more information, call 704-216-8234.

Scavenger Hunt: Through Nov. 30, Eye-Bomb Contest, East. It’s always fun to photobomb. Have you ever eye-bombed, though? Try to make funny pictures with googly eyes during our Scavenger Hunt. You will be entered into a raffle contest for a literary-themed prize. For more information, contact Tammie at 704-216-7842.

Chapter Chats, Sensory Storytime: Nov. 20, 10 a.m., East. This weekly program is designed for those with autism and/or sensory challenges and is coordinated in collaboration with Rowan-Cabarrus Community College’s Skills, Opportunity, Awareness, Readiness (S.O.A.R.) program and Rowan County’s Therapeutic Recreation Division. It will be an interactive Sensory Storytime that involves books, songs and movement. To learn more about how to participate in this program series, call Tammie at 704-216-7842. Chapter Chats: Sensory Storytime will be on hiatus until Jan. 8, 2020.

Sensory Storytime: Nov. 22, 10:30 a.m., headquarters. Attendees will experience storytime through tactile stimulation as they touch, see, smell and hear different interactive elements. This 30-minute storytime involves books, songs and movement and is designed for those with autism and/or sensory challenges. All ages and those of all abilities are welcome. A responsible caretaker (age 16+) must accompany children 8 and under. For questions or to make accessibility arrangements, call 704-216-8234.

Baby-Toddler Tea Party: Nov. 20, 10:30 a.m., South. This special Baby-Toddler storytime guarantees fun for every child. Refreshments will be served. A responsible caretaker (age 16+) must accompany children 8 and under. Questions? Call 704-216-7729.

Adventures with Mr. Robert: Nov. 23, 11 a.m., headquarters. Building with Boxes. Everybody likes to build with wooden blocks. Now, you get to build even bigger structures with boxes. A responsible caretaker (age 16+) must accompany children 8 and under. Questions? Call 704-216-8234.

Displays: Headquarters, Rustic Edge Soap by Rachel Mowery and Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 1083 display; East, veterans by Glenn Hinson; South, original artwork by Kristen Trahan.

Literacy: Call the Rowan County Literacy Council at 704-216-8266 for more information on teaching or receiving literacy tutoring for English speakers or for those for whom English is a second language.