Christmas is upon us once more, bringing with it excitement, festivities, presents and too much food. For people with a disability and their carers, however, this time of year is not without its challenges.
To make Christmas a wonderful time for everyone, a little planning goes a long way.
Challenges faced by people with a disability and their carers
Christmas is generally considered a time to catch up with friends and family and celebrate together, so those who can’t move around as freely could find this period isolating. Knowing other people are gathering for social occasions or simply busy shopping for presents and Christmas crackers can make us feel lonelier and negative.
Crowds can be intimidating for a person with a disability, and Christmas usually means busy shops and malls, full trams and trains and more people on the footpaths – not to mention Christmas day and the large gatherings. This can lead to anxiety and stress.
The Juggling Act
We all have a lot on our plate at this time of the year, carers more so than most. Many of them have to be a lot of things to many people, and making sure they are giving everyone enough of their time can be stressful and exhausting. Looking after a person with a disability and making sure you’re there for other family members or friends or partners can take its toll.
Ways to manage the Christmas period
1. Plan ahead
Many people with a disability depend on routine, so having the manic rush of the Christmas period thrust upon them can be upsetting. Prepare them for this time of year by spending time with them in the lead-up, talking to them about Christmas, what they like about it, what they don’t, and what their concerns are. An advent calendar is a great way to get in the mood nice and early and count down the days to December 25.
2. Create your own presents
Certain disabilities can make shopping in person difficult, but creating your own gifts beats anything you could buy at a mall anyway. Something simple like a Christmas card is easy to make and spreads a lot of cheer. Receiving a Christmas card in the post is nostalgic, and it’s also a great way to celebrate the season with family members and friends you might not be able to catch up with in person – not to mention fostering new bonds with people in the neighbourhood.
3. Hang up the tinsel
At Sunrise2Sunrise, we’ve matched countless people with disabilities with a suitable place to call home. We know the pride they take in this and how exciting it is to make a place your own. Christmas is a great opportunity to help decorate their house with tinsel, Elves, Santas and whatever else feels festive. Decorations are plentiful and inexpensive at this time of year, or you can even help them create their own.
4. Take them shopping
Malls and shopping centres are full of festive cheer at this time of year. Anytime from mid-November onwards is sure to find the tinsel up and the Santas at work. You can avoid the biggest crowds by going before school holidays begin. Make a list of people to buy gifts for and work out a budget. If shopping in person is unrealistic, you can do what nearly everyone does these days and go online.
5. Bake a Christmassy treat
This time of year is all about excess – particularly when it comes to food. Many families have established traditions around particular dishes and favourite meals that go beyond the classic Christmas ham. Why not help your client start their own traditions – or keep old ones alive – by baking some gingerbread cookies, shortbread or pudding? It’s a fun and satisfying way to spread the cheer and feel involved.
Look after each other this Christmas
Christmas can be a stressful time of year for those with a disability and their carers, but it can – with just a little planning – also be a wonderfully festive and fun time. The key is to think ahead and earmark the potential challenges so you can work around them. There are plenty of ways to make Christmas a safe and inclusive season that takes everyone’s individuality into account.