🎃 Halloween is an odd holiday. Blend it with caregiving and you’ve got a spooky combination. 👻

Death and delight combine with fear, community, and creativity as celebrants transform for the day into superheroes 🦸‍♂️ or maybe local heroes like doctors 👩🏽‍⚕️ and nurses🧑🏻‍⚕️. Adults and children buy or build costumes, discuss them with friends and family, and wear them to parties or on a trek through the neighborhood. It’s a holiday for trying new things and stepping out of one’s comfort zone by venturing into a haunted house 🏚 or knocking on neighbors’ doors to ask for a treat 🍭.

Strangely enough, it’s also a little like caregiving. Often, when someone becomes a caregiver, they must take on multiple new roles. They might become detectives 🕵️ as they interact with medical staff and insurance companies. They may act as chefs 👩🏻‍🍳 and maids 🧹and chauffeurs 🚙. They might also take on the mien of a nurse 🏥 or doctor 🩺 as they learn the details of a disease and how to treat it, perhaps with not only medications and post-surgery care, but also with oxygen tanks, at-home medical devices, and physical therapy assistance. At times, they might need to knock on neighbors’ doors to ask for favors. They may also face multiple fears, including worries that death may come calling one day soon, while simultaneously gaining a new closeness with both their loved one and their broader community. It’s a new world 🌎 they’ve entered that changes their life in unexpected ways.

So, as you make your way as a caregiver, are they any lessons that Halloween 🎃 might teach you? Here are some ideas:

1) People Like to Help
On Halloween 🎃, many adults look forward to answering the door and doling out candy 🍫 to everyone who knocks. It can be a delight to be wanted, to give joy, and to have so many visitors. Caregivers are often reluctant to reach out for help, just as little kids can feel shy about knocking on doors. Once both garner some success with their endeavors, they tend to gain confidence, and while some homes may have a grumpy giver 😠, there are so many more with people who not only want to give, but feel great satisfaction that they were able to be a positive part of another person’s journey😍. Most of us love to feel needed and vital to other people, so please remember that it’s not only necessary to knock on a few doors (or make a few calls) to get help as caregivers, it can be a blessing for those who provide that aid.

2) Step Forward with Confidence
As you take on new caregiving roles, you may feel a bit shy, inadequate, or uncomfortable, 🙀 as many do when they first step out in their Halloween costumes. But generally, as you receive positive reactions, the costumes and the new roles become more comfortable 😺 and both can become sources of pride that you’ll talk about for years to come. New ventures help us grow, so whether you’re coming to terms with your loved ones’ medical needs, pouring through insurance documents, or reaching out for support at a caregiver group, you’ll find that you’re gaining new skills that will eventually enhance your life. So, step out into the unknown like a first-time trick-or-treater and see what treasures you might unlock.

3) The Many Faces of Death
During Halloween, tombstones🪦, skeletons 🩻, and mummy-filled🧟‍♂️ Haunted Houses 🏚 can be sources of creativity and fun. People decorate their yards, and others eagerly take in the displays. Horror movies take over the theaters and streaming services to entice people to scream and jump and laugh at their own reactions. While real encounters with death are a far different experience, the fake encounters at Halloween give our culture a chance to think of a topic that we often prefer to avoid. It also brings fun into it, and, if you let it, the period of death and dying can be a chance to experience a different side of joy. For caregivers, playing games 🂨, watching TV 📺, or sitting in the sun ☀️ with a loved one can be time to connect and celebrate that connection. Distant relatives and friends may reach out with calls and visits, shoring up important relationships. One woman, who was dying of pancreatic cancer, decided to celebrate her last months of life by having a weekly party 🎉 at which everyone she knew was welcome 🤗. Years later, those weeks of community and love are still treasured by her children❤️.

So, bring some fun into your caregiving, and let Halloween give you a new lens on life. 🎃 👻

Thank you for reading, please share with a friend, and be well. —KK

Please consider making a donation to the Kathi Koll Foundation so you can help make a difference in struggling family caregivers’ lives. Thank you!

Photo 8055586 | Halloween © Romolo Tavani