Certainly, someone’s terminal medical condition and anticipated death could threaten to make things a little less cheery this time of year, especially when it hits you that it’s the last season without at least one loved one around.
But the team at Above and Beyond Home Health Care and Hospice encourages people to think about the holidays a little differently: sure, it’s OK to be sad, but it’s also a perfect occasion to find ways to have fun together in the remaining time you have with them.
Consider the perspective of someone who knows they are dying: would they prefer to spend their remaining days being sad and thinking about everything and everyone they’re missing, or would they rather try and squeeze in a few more wonderful memories of a final holiday season with family, friends, and anyone else?
Survivors can also join in the fun by pulling out all the stops as far as putting together a memorable holiday occasion. They can always mourn next year while declaring that this year is going to be all about celebrating remaining time together. So, make that special food and drinks, play everyone’s favorite songs, decorate like crazy, and bring together loved ones.
Plus, as many will tell you, only today is guaranteed, and getting together with others in the future may be difficult or impossible. So really, any and every occasion should be celebrated.
So that takes care of the party at least. But what about another important part of the holidays, the gift-giving?
What’s the etiquette about giving someone a present who won’t be around in a few months, and likely is trying to get rid of their own “stuff”?
The answer can vary, and the question should be asked at least since everyone’s situation is different. But even if they do say something like “no gifts” it still can be a nice gesture to bring something, even if it’s a little different than what you would have given them in different times.
Some options for treasured gifts can include:
- Something special. If you’ve been holding onto especially rare food or drink in the back of the closet or cupboard “for a special occasion only,” a final gathering with loved ones would certainly qualify. So go ahead and crack open that fancy bottle of wine or exotic liquor and share it with the group. That way everyone who happens to be there will be able to partake in this treat and make wonderful memories together. Otherwise, if you don’t, your bottle of vintage Scotch or fancy chocolates will just get dusty and maybe grow less appealing while you wait for an occasion that’s even more special that may never come.
- Practical gifts. If someone is having problems due to their medical condition, anything that can help will be welcome and appreciated. Dry mouth from medicine? How about a big bag of hard candies. Cold feet and hands due to chemo recovery? How about warm socks or gloves? Other comforts like pillows or cough drops may not be technically fancy gifts but could be useful and helpful and make the recipient think of you when they’re used.
- Heritage items. Everyone wants to preserve their memories of the person who is receiving hospice care. What if you gave them the opportunity to share their thoughts? It can take the form of a blank book where they can write down special memories from their life. For those who don’t know how to get started, you can even create basic questions that they can answer, like favorite items from their past. Once they get going the stories will come easier. Or, if they have difficulty writing, you can give them a recorder or camera for them to speak their thoughts into. Even if they aren’t able to finish their whole life story, anything they do contribute will be treasured for generations.
- Family photos. Letting someone know how special they are and have been can be a lovely gift, hospice care or not. A photo of the family together or a scrapbook of past special occasions can be nice to look at in someone’s final days. It can also be shared – and added to – in the future.
- Something funny. Find out what movie or TV show people liked most as a kid and buy it or order it and get everyone together to watch it together. Chances are it’s still funny today. Laughter has so many physical and mental benefits, so taking time to laugh together as a family can be a valuable experience. Even a short burst of good cheer can get endorphins going and reduce pain. Even if it isn’t necessarily a Christmas movie, getting together to create some great memories and laugh can be wonderful.