The Power of Positive Attitudes when Handling Stress
Every holiday season families are reminded of loved ones that are struggling or are no longer with them. For caregivers in particular, the holiday season can be among the most stressful times of the year as they try to manage increased interaction between family members and the loved ones they are caring for.
Approaching the holiday season with a positive attitude, however, can actually contribute to reducing stress for all parties. Brent Hall and his family have realized the power of positive attitudes as his grandmother continues to battle dementia.
“There’s always the stress of wanting to make sure that my grandma is happy and having a good time, especially when we consider how many more of these holidays with her we are going to have left,” Hall said. “And even if she doesn’t remember it, we want our memories to be good times, and I think it’s important for my granddad to have that kind of joy around him.”
Hall’s grandfather is the sole caregiver for his grandmother, and Hall’s family is very conscious about relieving his grandfather’s stress by keeping positive and upbeat attitudes when interacting with Hall’s grandmother.
“My dad calls them probably every day, and one of the things that he’s really conscious to do is make my grandmother laugh,” Hall said. “Every time that he gets on the phone with her he’s going to say something to try to make her laugh, and that’s super important. Even if she doesn’t remember what’s going on, you can tell that she’s in a much better state of mind and better mood whenever she’s around people who are laughing and are having a good time.”
“One of the interesting things that you know, but you don’t really realize until you witness it personally, is how important people’s attitudes around you are,” Hall said.
“My dad and uncle have had to be pretty direct with my granddad and have had to tell him, ‘Somehow you have to not be stressed around her at all,’ which is a crazy feat to try to take on whenever you have two people’s lives in your hands: you have your own life—and you’re not young—and you also have the life of this woman that you love, but she’s a different person,” Hall said.
“Whenever we’re all together it’s super important to try to take on that role of keeping things light, which encourages my granddad and, so, indirectly puts my grandmother in a better mood because Granddad is in a much lighter mood,” Hall said.
“We play a card game when we’re all together and the last play of the hand you put a card on your forehead, and my grandma has always thought that we all look absolutely ridiculous when we do that,” Hall said. “So, even if she hasn’t been in there watching us play, we bring her in to watch that last hand and she still cracks up.”
“Whether it’s indirectly through us just being around each other and keeping things light and laughing, or whether it is trying to directly say something funny to her or make some sort of funny observation—however we have to do it—it’s definitely noticeable that whenever we are light, whenever we’re in a good mood, whenever we are not even just happy, but when we’re joyful around her, she is able to kind of live that out herself too,” Hall said.
“I think as much as the caregiver can, keeping a positive attitude is really important, and as much as their surrounding environment can bring about some joy and some peace, I think that’s important too,” Hall said.
By Dane Roper, Cariloop Intern