November 29th, 2022
The holidays are upon us again. (How did that happen so fast?) If you are a caregiver, the season might be a crazy emotional mix—equal parts stress, joy, sticky family dynamics, nostalgia, and maybe a sprinkle of anticipatory grief. So how do you get through this busy season as an already overwhelmed caregiver? Here are some tips to help you make it through to the New Year.
Don’t get caught up in the holiday hype. Decide what’s really important to you, your loved one and those you treasure. Focus on that. As a caregiver, you’ve got a lot on your plate. You probably can’t bake every holiday dish, find the perfect gift for everyone, or address every card. And that’s ok. You don’t need to do it all. Make peace with that. Practice saying “no,” so you can focus on what’s meaningful.
Family dynamics around the holidays can be tricky, and so can family dynamics around caregiving. People who have not seen your loved one in a while may be free with unsolicited opinions and advice. When this happens, try to be more like a duck than a sponge—let those comments roll off your back instead of soaking them in. Don’t feel like you need to answer every question regarding your loved one’s care or address every comment. Preparing some go-to responses ahead of time can help you quickly shut down sentiments that are not genuine or helpful. Some go-to’ are: “You have some great ideas. Maybe we can talk about those after the holiday;” or “That’s an interesting thought. I’ll consider it.”
Interruptions in regular routines or large gatherings might be agitating for the person you’re caring for—especially if they have dementia. Keep family gatherings smaller if you can or plan an abbreviated stay if you must attend a larger event. Planning ahead can cut down on stress, as well. If your loved one has a special diet or has a hard time eating, pack something you know they’ll like and can eat. And tossing a change of clothes and some hygiene supplies in the car before you leave never hurts. Also consider asking your host or hostess if there is a quiet spot you and your loved one can retreat to if they become agitated. Doing this ahead of time, or as soon as you arrive, can cut down on the stress of trying to find your host in a difficult moment.
For a family caregiver, there can be no better gift than a sincere offer of help. Take people up on it if they offer; or consider gifting yourself some time off by reaching out to paid services or a friend or family member for help.
Above all—take some time to care for yourself. Caregiving is hard work. Manage your expectations of both the holidays and yourself. Give yourself grace. And enjoy!