It may be the “most wonderful time of the year,” but the holiday season is not without its share of stress. And while managing holiday commitments can be challenging for anyone, doing so can be especially hard for people who are also juggling the demands of caregiving. The good news is there are ways to lay the foundation for a stress-free season, starting with these six tips.
1. Manage your loved one’s expectations
Everyone has high hopes for the holidays. Unfortunately, it may be necessary to skip or alter some traditions in order to accommodate your aging loved one’s changing capabilities and comfort level. Keeping the lines of communication open about what to expect in the weeks, days, and minutes ahead can make sure you’re both on the same page. Plus, the more prepared your loved one is, the less likely he/she will be to become stressed or agitated.
2. Manage your own expectations
Caregivers often get caught up in all of the expectations surrounding the holidays. From buying gifts to attending parties, the demands can pile up. It was hard enough to fit everything in when you weren’t responsible for someone else’s needs and wellbeing.
The best gift you can give yourself this holiday season is to let yourself off the hook and simplify. Identify the things that absolutely must be done, then allow yourself to let go of the rest. As overextending yourself can be a major stressor, allowing yourself to opt-out—without guilt—can be a valuable self-defense against caregiver burnout.
3. Plan ahead
“Footloose and fancy-free” isn't an expression that applies to the life of a caregiver. And while planning ahead isn’t exactly glamorous, it’s integral to keeping the peace during demanding times. From choosing travel times based on your aging loved one’s best and worst times of day to bringing the food he/she likes to eat to parties and events, getting out in front of these things can free you up to enjoy the important moments rather than spending your time managing them.
In addition to planning for physical and mental challenges, anticipate emotional challenges, as well. If you or your aging loved one has any stress-inducing “holiday hot buttons,” such as certain people or places, be aware of these and limit your exposure, if possible.
4. Ask for help
No one likes to ask for help. However, sharing the burden can go a long way—especially during the busy holidays. The truth is that most people want to help. Asking for help with as much specificity as possible can significantly lighten your load. Whether it’s picking up a prescription from the pharmacy or folding a basket of laundry, it’s one less thing for you to do. If you don’t have nearby family and friends who can pitch in, consider hiring help for a few hours a week during the holidays.
5. Make time for self-care
For caregivers, in particular, the words “season of giving” have special meaning. After all, caregivers give a lot of themselves to the act of providing care for someone else. Self-care can not only keep you going for yourself but also so you can continue to care for your aging loved one.
Just as you schedule meals, doctor’s appointments and other everyday events be sure to schedule downtime for yourself. This can be as simple as reading a book or taking a brisk walk or a longer break such as seeing a movie or dinner out. If a friend or family member isn’t available to take over your caregiver duties while you’re gone, look into respite care.
6. Welcome new traditions
Letting go of old traditions can be hard, but some activities and events may no longer be possible for your aging loved one. That doesn’t mean you can’t create new ones, however! From crafting together to watching old family videos, any time together is precious during the holiday season.
While our instinct is often to just push through, mindfulness can help you live in the present in order to truly make the most of each minute. And remember: The days are long, but the years are short. Every moment you spend with your loved one during the holidays—even the moments that don’t go as planned—is a beautiful chance to connect and reflect.
If your older loved one needs residential retirement care in Louisville, we’d love to show you the difference person-centered care can make in seniors’ overall wellbeing. Click here to learn more about our senior services—from assisted living to memory care—then come take a tour of our Louisville retirement community.