Dear Donna:

I’ve been my mom’s caregiver for over four years. Every year during the holidays, my normal caregiving stress significantly increases. My family always looks forward to the season, but now I dread it. I just can’t seem to find a way to enjoy myself without worrying about my mom.

Do you have any suggestions that can help me better navigate caregiving and holidays?

Sincerely,

Sam in Saginaw, MI

Holiday Survival Tips for Caregivers

Dear Sam:

You aren’t alone. We often hear this from family caregivers. The joys of the holiday season typically come with a whirlwind of activity. From attending the kids’ and grandkids’ seasonal events to baking pumpkin roll for the family potluck, your holiday to-do list might seem never-ending. When you add the responsibilities of caring for a senior loved one to the list, this festive time of year can easily become overwhelming.

Here are a few holiday survival tips you might find useful this year:

  • Identify your biggest stressors.

Start by trying to pin down the activities or tasks that are causing you to experience the most anxiety. For family caregivers, there can be a wide range of causes, including:

  • Worrying that your loved one will feel left out if you attend holiday gatherings without them
  • Struggling to find enough time in your schedule to complete traditional holiday tasks
  • Feeling as if you are neglecting your own family’s needs or desires in favor of caregiving duties

Once you’ve identified your sources of stress, it’s easier to find solutions.

  • Reset your expectations.

Caregivers are often reluctant to ask for help. Many believe no one will care for a loved one like they can. During the holiday season, when the demands on everyone’s time are greater than usual, a caregiver is more likely to experience overload or burnout. Give yourself permission to not only seek outside help in caring for your mom, but to also scale back holiday traditions.

Accept only those invitations that mean the most. Decline requests that require time you don’t have to give, such as baking for the church bake sale or helping the garden club decorate for the holiday parade.

If you don’t have anyone who can help with your mom’s care, consider a few days or a week of respite services at a local assisted living community. That can give you an opportunity to handle holiday tasks, such as shopping and baking, while also attending or hosting seasonal gatherings.

  • Remember your happiness matters, too.

Caregivers often put their own well-being low on the list of priorities. They may skip meals or rely on fast foods instead of taking time to plan healthy menus. Exercise and sleep might also be sacrificed. Caregivers may decline party and event invitations they would love to accept. While it may seem like a luxury, it’s also important to make your personal happiness a priority.

I hope this information is helpful to you, Sam. If you decide to explore respite care, I hope you will consider one of the Heritage Senior Communities. Call the location nearest you to learn more!

Kind regards,

Donna