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Practical Insights for Busy Caregivers

How to survive the holidays as a caregiver


December 12, 2016, by Pat Morden, Caregiver Exchange

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! But sometimes it doesn’t feel that way to caregivers. You may be feeling tired, frustrated, sad, or afraid – all emotions that don’t mix well with the euphoria of the holidays. And you may be worrying about all the things you usually do but can’t find the energy to do alongside your caregiving duties.

Lesley Latchford, Coordinator of Client Services with VON Middlesex-Elgin, says it’s important to “let go of traditions and expectations.” Remind yourself that you don’t have to make ten different kinds of cookies or prepare a four-course meal for 20. “Don’t feel bad or worry that you’ll disappoint people,” she says. “Things are different now. Set realistic goals that you can fulfill without being completely stressed out.”

Latchford also suggests managing expectations of other family members. If people will be visiting who haven’t seen the person you’re caring for recently, she suggests giving them an update ahead of time, preparing them for what they will see. “Giving them a little preparedness helps alleviate the feelings of grief, loss or guilt.”

Caregivers are often told to look after themselves, so that they have the physical and emotional energy to care for others. This is especially important during the holidays, says Latchford. “Take time-outs when and where you can,” she says. “Even it’s just five minutes for a walk around the block, make sure you’re still doing self-care.” Take advantage of local respite and community support services to ensure you get a break. If a family member offers to take over for a while, accept with gratitude.

Part of looking after yourself is staying socially connected. Don’t avoid social activities at this time of year, Latchford says. You may not be up to a six-hour visit, but think about visiting for an hour or two. If you’re caring for someone with dementia, remember that he or she may find crowds overwhelming and plan your visit accordingly.

Some other ideas:

  • If anyone asks what you’d like as a gift, consider asking for respite care, home repairs, a day at the spa, or something else that will support and refresh you.
  • Remember to schedule some quiet time to enjoy one-on-one with the person you’re caring for. Watch out for signs of burnout in the person, and adjust when necessary.
  • Shop online whenever possible.
  • As much as possible, maintain the daily routine for you and the person you’re caring for during the holidays.
What can you let go? Check out the stress assessment tool in this holiday survival guide.