Acting as a caregiver for an elderly loved one can be stressful in the best of times. Add in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, and it can be overwhelming. Here are some caregiving tips on how to manage and enjoy the holidays while keeping stress at bay.
One consideration that frequently adds stress to caregiving during the holidays is the prospect of meeting distant family members who may not be aware of an elderly loved one's deteriorating condition. Fears as to what to say and not say, and when and how to communicate can leave caregivers feeling conflicted.
Instead of dreading annual family gatherings, it is best for caregivers to consider in advance what to tell people. It is not necessary to go into all the details of an elderly loved one's condition. Instead, something simple like, "Mom is doing well for this stage of her life" serves well. This succinct statement acknowledges the situation yet does not dwell on details. Such a response lets people know that an elderly loved one is doing as well as can be expected.
It is best to consider in advance who should be privy to more sensitive information. This is in case someone tries to pry. While most family members are well-meaning, the sad reality is that some are simply being nosy. Some may even have more devious motives for asking. It is good to determine in advance who will be granted more information than a standard response. Then caregivers can deflect inquiries from others graciously. It should be fairly easy to turn Aunt Nosy's attention to holiday topics.
Sharing more information with family members who really are well-meaning can end up helping the caregiver. Most people don't really understand the pressures a caregiver is under. By selectively opening up to trusted family members, a caregiver can communicate a need for help. Some relatives, upon learning about the things the caregiver deals with, may very well offer to lend a hand. At the very least, a caregiver sharing his or her situation may combat feelings of isolation, being forgotten or unappreciated.
Caregivers should respectfully decline to assist others in the family if caregiving duties already consume much time and energy. Others may want help putting together the holiday meal or planning the festivities. Yet they are not donating to the welfare of the family on the same level a caregiver does. Holiday preparations, in addition to caregiving, are likely too much for a family caregiver.
Family caregivers should not feel guilty about standing their ground and explaining that they are too maxed out to help. Caregivers' first priority should be taking care of themselves. Otherwise, they will not be able to care for the elderly loved one. There is no shame in saying, "I'm sorry, I don't have time because I am focused on caring for Mom."
Caregivers often could use help in providing care, cooking meals, and other everyday things. Yet that kind of help is not always available. It's best to have a "To Do" list of things ready if relatives offer help around the holidays. The visiting relative who says, "Let me know if there's anything I can do" can help with specifically planned items.
Some caregivers neglect their own homes because of their caregiving duties. Minor home repairs, small errands, or shopping may be on the "To Do" list. Whatever tasks that the caregiver hasn't been able to get to are ready for helper's hands.
There is nothing wrong with accepting offers of help around the holidays. Such aid will give a caregiver some valuable time and energy for self-care and caregiving.
With all the busyness of the holiday season, plus caregiving responsibilities, it is easy to forget that holidays should be breaks from the work-a-day pace. They should provide some time for reflection and renewal. Even a few minutes of contemplation can provide wonderful mental and emotional respite. A solitary walk, a moment alone gazing out a window or at holiday decorations by candlelight, reflecting over all there is to be grateful for, is a special kind of rest.
The holidays are a time for family and friends. Caregivers who are firm, focused, and who accept help and remain grateful will weather the stresses of the season well.
FitzPatrick, J. (September 27, 2016). Cruising through Caregiving: Reducing the Stress of Caring for Your Loved One. Greenleaf Book Group Press . Available at https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=vIftDAAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PT13&dq=caregiving+holiday+season&ots=VsNrYou2-N&sig=YFuio9eHXkwWj61VYl-m8FrCE_8#v=onepage&q=caregiving%20holiday%20season&f=false. Last visited November 18, 2016.
Wilson, P. (2016). The Caregiving Trap: Solutions for Life's Unexpected Changes. Morgan James Publishing. New York. Available at https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=07tCCQAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PP1&dq=caregiving+holiday+season&ots=SCD64zgDOB&sig=0dKr_zlQu79gSXoe0EsMe9mTjgo#v=onepage&q=caregiving%20holiday%20season&f=false. Last visited November 18, 2016.