This time of year is always so special. Reminiscing on old holiday memories and making new traditions with family and friends brings us a sense of peace and happiness—if your lucky. While it is nice to fantasize about a picture-perfect, movie-like holiday season, few families actually make it through the holidays without at least feeling some kind of stress. Whether its stressing about money for gifts, organizing a Christmas party, finding time to cook for your extended family, or you’re just dreading being in the same room with your crazy Uncle, Christmastime isn’t like it used to be. For caregivers especially, this time of the year can give more stress than any time of year.
For those incredible people that care for our aging loved ones, finding balance and time for themselves can prove difficult during the holidays. The pressure to foster old traditions and keep a bright and jolly attitude for those they care for can cause a lot of guilt and feelings of inadequacy. Spending extra time on the job to celebrate with patients means caregivers are spread extra thin. For caregivers of patients with Dementia or Alzheimers disorders, keeping a routine but also celebrating the season is a tough task to accomplish. It seems like there just isn’t enough time or energy to go around, and while it may be their job as caregivers to make life easier for others, it is extremely important that they receive care and understanding too, especially during this hectic time of year. Whether you yourself are a caregiver, or you have a loved one under the care of someone else, we’ve come up with the most important tips for caring for our caregivers during the holidays.
If you are a caregiver or have an aging loved one that needs extra attention away from home, explain to all family members why you may be home later than usual this time of year. It can be confusing for kids who are used to certain holiday traditions and all of the sudden see things aren’t what they used to be. There is no need to hide that your patient or loved one needs a little extra care to feel special during this season. Offer to take Grandchildren in to see Grandma or Grandpa, and show them how their visits are a truly special gift. Explain how things may be different now, but Grandma still needs you and loves you very much.
Give yourself the gift of a good laugh this holiday season. Take time away from your busy schedule to watch and laugh at your favorite holiday movie. Offer to watch your aging loved one’s favorite movie too! No matter how stressful things can get when times are tough during the holidays, you can always depend on your standby holiday flicks to bring a glimmer of hope and happiness to your home.
As caregivers, giving so much during the holidays can take a real toll and feelings of burnout and high stress can creep up out of no where. This can leave caregivers feeling robbed of energy, to the point of emotional and physical exhaustion. Be cognizant of mood swings that could be emotional ups and downs, extra fatigue levels, and foggy thinking. Give yourself a break if you feel like you’ve been experiencing any of these signs.
Just when you may need it most, it’s easy to forget yourself during a time when you are busier than normal. Don’t forget that if you want to do your best job caring for those you love, you’ve got to care for yourself too. Even if it is as simple as sitting and enjoying a cup of coffee in the morning before you rush out the door. It could be exercising a few times a week to let out stress and increase those mood boosting endorphins! Maybe consider purchasing yourself an aromatherapy kit for an early gift with relieving essential oils and scents. Anything that improves your level of well-being.
You are not alone. Family Caregiver Alliance is a great resource to connect with other caregivers as well as professionals for support. Don’t forget that your loved ones are there for you and how powerful a real conversation can be for self-healing. You may even want to consider a counselor or licensed therapist as additional support.
We may love to go all-out for the holidays, but it can save you a lot of stress to scale back some of those normally time consuming and stressful holiday traditions. Know your boundaries when it comes to added stress. You’ll be able to take better care of your aging loved one with less on your plate. Don’t force yourself to put up every last holiday light and decoration this year, stick with some of your favorites instead. Rather than cook the entire Christmas meal by yourself as usual, ask family members to bring a dish this year. What’s most important is that this year fills your family and your heart with joy—not stress!
Don’t forget to stop and smell the roses while you can. Traditions may be evolving and times may be changing as far as how your family celebrates after an aging loved one needs extra care, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be thankful for the time you have as a family. Take pictures, write your holiday cards by hand this year and tell your families story. Soak up every minute of time you have with your loved ones because tomorrow is never promised.
We want to say a special thank you to all those caregivers who give so selflessly to our nation’s aging population. It is because of you that so many of us are lucky enough to spend the holidays with loved ones who may not have been around 50 years ago. Whether you care for your aging loved one yourself, or you’ve made a career out of caring for those in need, you are appreciated. You are important and loved. We hope you take the time to care for yourself this holiday season, as it is very much deserved.
Thank you, from the Safety In Place family.