Caregiving Over the Holiday Season

By Barbara Small

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The holiday season can be stressful. Add it to the busy schedule of a family caregiver and it can become overwhelming. It may be unrealistic to try to celebrate traditionally, while at the same time ensure your family member is cared for as needed.

Take time to re-evaluate your expectations for the holiday season and create a more realistic view of how it might unfold. Figure out what you truly have the time and energy to do and what you can delegate.

Below are some ideas to help reduce the stress of the holiday season:

* Delegate responsibilities and activities. Ask, and then allow, other family members and friends to share in the caregiving duties.

* You decide how much you wish to celebrate - if others want to do more, let them take the initiative.

* Don't be afraid to say no. Only say yes if it’s comfortably manageable.

* Start new traditions that make sense based on the present. It doesn’t always have to be done the same way every year.

* Try to schedule activities early in the day. For someone who is ill or injured, fatigue and stress levels can increase throughout the day.

* Try to maintain a sense of routine for the care recipient. Ask them how they want to celebrate over the holidays.

* Keep decorations to a minimum to avoid clutter that may be hazardous to a frail or disoriented person.

* Suggest a potluck or ask other family members to prepare the meal. Order in or eat your holiday meal out this year. Some restaurants or grocery stores offer complete holiday meals for take-out.

* Keep the number of guests manageable. Noise and hectic activity can be exhausting for the person who is ill as well as for the burnt-out family caregiver.

* Ask family or friends to provide respite care for you over the holidays. Just a few hours of time for yourself can help renew your energy.

* It is natural to feel sad when others are having what seems to be the “ideal” family gathering. Remember, your family is doing the best they can given the circumstances.

* Not everyone will have a happy family gathering just because it is the holiday season. Old resentments can resurface when people spend an extended period together - especially when the stress of caregiving is added to the mix.

* Avoid comparisons with past holidays. Yes, your family situation has changed and this year will not be the same as holidays in the past, but it can still be enjoyed in its own unique way.

Next issue: Communicating with other family members





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