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Holiday Tips for Family Caregivers

Elderly parents and their daughter dressed in Christmas sweaters and Santa hats
By Michael Riley

If you’re a family caregiver, you may be a little apprehensive about the holidays rather than looking forward to them. It can be a lot of work to take care of your loved one on normal days, throw in all the changes expected with the holidays and you may find yourself under a lot of stress.

Here are a few tips to help make this time of year wonderful for everyone—including you!

1. Adjust your expectations

We all have that one special day that sticks out in our mind as “perfect.” The holiday where everything went smoothly, and the day was spent in a dreamlike state of joy. Perhaps this was back when you were a kid and the stress of producing such a holiday was not on you.

The truth is, things are likely going to be different this holiday season. Your mother may need to be reminded several times of who everyone is and what is going on. Your father may need help cleaning up for a special day. It’s okay for things to not go smoothly or perfectly—and it can still be a good holiday.

Instead of pushing yourself to the breaking point trying to make everything perfect, relax and enjoy the time you have with your aging loved ones.

2. Start New Traditions

Many families have their own special tradition they have done for years. Sometimes however, these traditions are no longer realistic with your aging parents. If they can no longer hike up a mountain to plant a tree, or remember the lyrics to Christmas carols, it’s okay to do something new and different instead.

Traditions you can still do together might include something like watching holiday movies together, going on a Christmas light tour, or reading holiday poems.

3. Avoid Toxic Situations

By now, you are probably a veteran of many infamous holiday experiences with the family. You’re probably well aware of hot button issues that will cause strife in the family. If you know what causes heated situations, take steps now to avoid them.

The holidays are never a good time to resolve family disputes. Instead, avoid political conversation if you know Uncle Ed has different views than you or anyone else in the family. Avoid confrontations, and if there is someone you tend to have disagreeing moments with, keep conversations short and have an exit strategy in place.

4. Avoid negative thoughts

It’s easy to get trapped in a bubble of what is going wrong with the holiday. Keep your thoughts positive, and you may find the holiday easier if you think positively. Even if you’re worried about certain situations, by looking on the bright side you can avoid triggering your own stress response.

5. Consider hiring help

The holidays are a time for enjoying your family, especially if you’re aware that time is limited with some of those family members. If you want your main focus to be on your loved ones and not always on their care, hiring help for the holiday season might be a way to reduce stress for everyone.

You can relax knowing that your parent is still getting the care they need, while you enjoy time with them as a daughter or son, rather than a caregiver.

The holidays can be tricky to get right, but if you lower your expectations and focus on enjoying the moment rather than making things “perfect” you’d be surprised how wonderful they can be. It’s okay if the turkey burns a little or you can’t find the star for the Christmas tree. These are all precious moments in their own right.

For more information, or for help with respite services, contact the professional caregivers at Homewatch CareGivers of Charlotte today.