For many caregivers, the holidays are the most stressful time of the year. Seeing family and friends can bring up a whole mix of emotions, not all of which are positive and joyful. If seeing family is not the problem, sometimes the care recipient is. When caring for someone with a cognitive impairment, for example, you may have fears of them acting out in group settings. No matter what is causing the stress this holiday season, we’re going to offer five tips to help you through. We hope that employing the suggestions listed in this article will make the occasion a more positive and joyful experience for you and your loved ones.
Whether you’re speaking to other adults or children, honestly communicating the truth of the matter can ease the tension for everyone involved. If, for example, your loved one is showing signs of physical or cognitive decline, it can be helpful to give everyone a heads up. Even children, when spoken to lovingly, can have a more positive experience (and a better reaction) as a result of proper communication.
Alert your friends and family of things like:
Significant changes in appearance
Potential outbursts, irrational behavior or inappropriate behaviors
Cognitive slips, such as forgetting the names of the people in attendance
Energy levels, and what to expect as they get tired or energized
Food needs, if there are any special dietary concerns to consider
When deciding how you want to show up this holiday season, honor both your energy levels and your loved one’s, and set boundaries accordingly. Consider this your permission slip if you need one: you do not have to say, “yes” to every invitation.
Lay out your invitations and tentative plans on the calendar and take a critical look. Does your schedule seem reasonable and feasible for you and the loved one in your care? If not, it’s time to prioritize. Consider things like:
The size of the event. Can your loved one handle interacting at that level, or would they prefer and better react to a smaller gathering?
The important guests. Who is it most important for you and your loved one to see this holiday season? Can you structure your calendar around these people?
Respite care. Can you find or hire someone to step in your place for an evening so you can attend a holiday gathering alone without guilt?
Distance. It may make sense to stick closer to home this holiday season, and if that’s the case, there is no harm or guilt in declining distant invitations.
Timing. If a gathering is planned at a time that your care recipient isn’t at their best (for example, late in the evening), it may be a good event to decline.
Create New Traditions
If your traditions are overwhelming or no longer feasible, try switching them up. Here are some examples:
If you traditionally host a big holiday dinner, ask someone else to host it at their house this year.
If you enjoy walking through your local zoo lights holiday installation but can’t imagine your loved one walking (or pushing them in a wheelchair) that far, find a neighborhood with a light display that you can drive through instead.
If you normally bake gingerbread and build icing-coated houses together, maybe swap the mess for a holiday puzzle this year.
The important thing during the holidays is to spend time together with the ones you love. Anything that feels incompatible with, or detrimental to, that goal should be scrapped.
Take Shortcuts Guilt-Free
Head to the bakery to get a delicious tray of cookies or cake. Buy a pie at Costco. Give gift cards instead of presents. Hire someone to put up your lights, or drastically cut down the display this year. Order a nice dinner instead of cooking a feast. You get the idea.
This year, there is no shame or guilt in taking shortcuts. These shortcuts may give you the space needed to keep balanced and maintain your energy to enjoy the holidays with the people that you love.
If someone offers to help you this holiday season, take them up on it. Give them a specific job or task to complete that can free up some space on your plate. There’s no need to feel weird or guilty about accepting the help that is offered. The best thing you can do is step aside and let them help you.
Closing Thoughts on Holiday Tips for Caregivers
The holidays are stressful whether you’re a caregiver or not. But being a caregiver adds a level of stress that few can seem to comprehend. The good news is, you are not alone. There are millions of caregivers in the same boat this holiday season.
Where to Find More Information
If you provide regular care to your loved one, we at CRC OC are here for you. We invite you to check out our library of information for family caregivers by clicking here for further reading and resources. You are also welcome to give us a call at 800-543-8312 to find out more about how we can support you in your caregiving journey.