The lovely part of the holiday season is the time off from work, family gatherings, and often times, the travel involved. If you are the main caregiver for a family member though, holidays can be very stressful, especially if your extended family isn’t able to come to you. Many caregivers often experience isolation, loneliness, and stress year-round, but it definitely increases in intensity during the holidays.
What Are the Holidays Really About Anyway?
When you are caring for a loved one who has challenges in their daily activities, mobility, or health, your extended family may not realize what a struggle it is until they are visiting. It is at this point that many extended family members, friends, and community members feel out of place, awkward, and unsure of how to help. If you need assistance during the holiday season, especially if you are planning to have friends and family over, it is important to give others an idea of what to expect, and where you may need help.
If you are coming home for the first time after your family member has been diagnosed with a chronic condition, dementia, or has come home from the hospital, or surgery, try not to be shocked at the changes in your loved one’s life. Ask what you can do to help, and don’t be afraid to pitch in. It is also important to let the primary caregiver for your loved one know that they are awesome, and that you appreciate them. A little appreciation can make them feel great and carry them through when they are stressed or worried. Something else you can do is offer to stop by on a set schedule to give the family caregiver a break. Spending time with your loved one, and their caregiver, is really what the holidays are all about anyway.
Meeting and Managing Family Expectations
If you come home to visit your parents, and one is having to care for the other, you may recognize not only the changes in one parent’s health, but also how short-tempered and stressed your other parent is. Often times this is a big sign of stress. When your parents are going through a normal routine, it is enough of a burden, add to that the additional needs of hosting a dinner or guests, and it can be a lot to handle.
If you are a family caregiver, you may consider hiring in-home assistance if meeting family expectations is important to you. A respite care worker can help you have the extra time you need to take care of any extra responsibilities. If you are a family member who isn’t usually involved in the day-to-day caregiving, you may ask if there are any responsibilities of the holiday you can take on that your parent usually takes care of. For example, shuttling family and friends back and forth to the airport isn’t ideal for your parents, but you can offer to do this for them, and it saves everyone a little extra stress.
Other Tips and Tricks For a Smoother Holiday Season
- If you are visiting the home of someone who is under constant medical care, consider asking if you can organize the meal and clean-up. This reduces the amount of work the primary caregiver needs to worry about.
- If you are the family caregiver, and you aren’t visiting family, do something special to celebrate with your loved one, such as ordering a holiday meal and your favorite dessert. Pick out a special movie and spend some time together enjoying the day.
- If you are the family caregiver and you are hosting family members, spread the work out before the big day comes. Hire some in-home assistance, then take time to decorate and plan a few days before the event. This makes it easier to plan out shopping and cooking.
- If you aren’t involved in the caregiving, and can’t help because you live too far away, consider offering to pay for some respite care, or meal services. Your support will go a long way.
- If you are providing care to a loved one, and they are well enough to travel, try to spread your visits out so that you have downtime in-between visits.
- If you aren’t close, you may not know what time of day is the best for your loved one. Make sure to ask, perhaps a noon meal is better this year, instead of the end of the day when everyone is tired.
- If a big meal isn’t ideal, consider having tea and dessert instead, this shortens the visiting time, and is less of a hassle to clean up.
- Make sure that you take plenty of photos, videos, and record stories. You’ll want to make memories that last a lifetime. Take the time to learn a family recipe, or create new traditions, it’ll be worth it later.
- Consider celebrating the holidays on a different day to make things easier for everyone involved.
- Remember that socialization is good for your loved one, and their caregiver, it prevents depression and feelings of isolation.
Family and friends are able to provide support during the holiday season, instead of thinking about all of the extra work, try planning out additional activities with professionals who can help you have a stress-free holiday. At Homewatch CareGivers of Charlotte we’re here to help. Don’t be afraid to contact us today to learn more about the different options that are available to you.