December 1, 2023
holiday tips for caregivers
’tis the season to Give yourself Grace
The holiday season is a wonderful time of the year, but for caregivers it often comes with additional tasks and extra stress. Instead of peace and laughter, the season can be filled with tension and guilt. Read on for tips and tricks that can help ensure your holidays are filled with less stress and more joy.
Honest communication about the realities of your caregiving position as well as your loved one’s functioning and care needs, can be invaluable. Sharing the truths of the situation can reduce feelings of isolation that often occur around this time. Be honest and open with your family and friends about your loved one’s abilities, that way you won’t have to be put in situations that are frustrating and difficult. Let your family know how much energy you have and what holiday duties you feel you can truly take on. By discussing the realities of the caregiving situation, you allow others the opportunity to respond with assistance. Don’t underestimate what others can and want to do for you.
It is common for caregivers to be disappointed with family members if they feel they are not “pulling their weight” in caregiving responsibilities. If this holds true for you, considering clearing the air before the holidays or putting these concerns on hold until after. This will allow you to have a more relaxed and enjoyable holiday.
Adapt and Adjust to the New Reality
It is common for caregivers to have to adapt from their traditional holiday experiences. You may need to modify your typical holiday excursions and traditions based on your loved one’s abilities. This might include things like choosing which event to go to (if any), shopping online instead of in-person, attending events for a shorter period of time, or buying some of your holiday food instead of cooking it all.
Don’t put pressure on yourself to have the same holiday experiences you’ve had in the past. If you are a caregiver, then your reality has changed, so it’s not realistic to have the same expectations as you did in the past.
If you can’t put out all the decoration, choose a few of the more significant items. If it’s easier, try sending out holiday texts instead of holiday cards. Simplify your menu, and make new holiday traditions. Recognize that it’s not all or nothing. You can adapt to your loved one’s abilities and still have a meaningful and enjoyable holiday.
During the holidays we also often find ourselves in someone else’s house or at an event of some sorts. In these instances, it is smart to come to prepared. Your loved one may not be able to adapt to the new environment, so plan ahead, and adapt the environment to them. For example, see if you can arrange to have a room in the house designated as a quiet place in case they get overwhelmed. This can benefit both them and you and make holiday gatherings less stressful.
Remember the power of mind over matter. Negative thinking can activate your body’s stress response, so stay mindful and do your best to think about what you CAN do, as opposed to what you can’t. This means celebrating the things your loved one CAN do, rather than dwelling on the things they can no longer participate in. By keeping yourself in this positive mindset, you are setting yourself up for success.
As caregivers, we by definition give all the time. During the holidays that giving increases tenfold. Because of this, it’s easy to get caught up in all these tasks and neglect oneself and your own needs. This can lead to burnout, resentfulness, and high stress levels.
To avoid this, make sure to get plenty of sleep and take care of yourself. Find ways to fill your tank. Do things that you enjoy. Dance to holiday music, buy yourself a gift, go for a massage, take more walks, or shop for some holiday gifts with a friend.
If you are aware of your emotions and your needs, then you can deal with them accordingly, instead of turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms. Make a point of setting aside some time for yourself.
Ask for Help
Even if you don’t normally ask for help, the holiday season is a great time to get that extra assistance. By asking a family member to give you a couple of hours off or by hiring someone to help you with some small repairs around the house, you can give yourself some well-deserved relief.
Asking for help can ease your mind and make you feel more relaxed. Consider an Adult Day Program, like the one offered by Winter Growth, to provide a few days of respite during the week, or maybe you could ask a friend to get and wrap your presents for you.
There are also other things to consider. You can educate yourself on respite programs in your area, paid home health aides (even if it’s for a short amount of time), or other community resources. Any help or time off from caregiving duties can be invaluable, so don’t do yourself the disservice and not ask!
Don’t Forget About YOU
During this busy holiday season take a break from your everyday caregiving responsibilities and spend some quality time with your loved one in a relaxed one-on-one context. Don’t forget that holidays are a time of love, laughter, memories, and appreciation. Spend some intimate time with your loved one and treasure the moment.
Lastly, don’t forget about yourself! You are providing for a loved one, and facing a challenge you never anticipated. Give yourself some grace, and make sure to schedule in personal care time for strong and fabulous YOU.
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Winter Growth’s founder dreamed of creating a community where seniors and adults with disabilities could continue to learn and grow – filling their lives with joy and purpose. For over 40 years, we have fulfilled her vision by providing unique, affordable Assisted Living/Memory Care and Adult Medical Day Care tailored to our clients’ individual abilities, interests, and lives.