Q: My mother lives with me and my family. We want to make the holidays special, but I’m already stressed. Any tips for a “do it all” caregiver?
A: You’re not alone in this. Many of us have grand expectations for what we can accomplish during the holidays only to remember that the responsibilities of caregiving do not magically become easier once the calendar shows December. Oftentimes, the holidays are especially difficult for those you are caring for as they may be processing the loneliness created by the loss of someone special in the past year, requiring more time and attention than normal.
Here are a few tips for making the holidays a little more “merry and bright”.
Ask for help. You don’t have to cook the entire holiday meal yourself. Consider preparing the main dish and asking everyone else to bring a covered dish. Your local grocery store can also cook the turkey and any sides you would like for about $8.00 per person. Resolve to only make one item from scratch this year instead of the whole meal. Or if you are taking care of your ill or elderly loved-one. Consider finding a home health aide to help you take on the duties some of your caregiving duties so that you can focus on one thing at a time. The last thing your loved-one wants to be is a burden. They will welcome the less stressed version of yourself for the holidays.
You don’t need to keep every tradition: You don’t need to go to every party just because you always have. And you don’t need to keep every tradition. Discuss with your family members what they like most about the holidays (it might surprise you).
Make shopping for gifts easier. Consider shopping over the internet or by catalog. Try to think of one store where you can buy gifts for everyone. Take advantage of stores that offer free gift-wrapping. Another not as well-known trick is to hire a Respite caregiver.Home care agencies specialize in this service around the holidays. A home health aide will come to your house or the house of your ill loved one and they will be your surrogate for a few hours should you need to get some shopping done. They can even stay for several days around-the-clock should you need to take a holiday get-away.
Use paper plates. Save yourself the work of washing dishes after the big dinner. There are some lovely but sturdy plates with holiday designs. Get matching plastic flatware for a festive table setting. No wants to be stuck washing dishes while the rest of the family is passed out on the couch with full bellies.
Don’t overspend. That will only cause you more stress after the holidays are over. No one remembers how much you spent on them, but they do remember your attitude. It’s the time spend with them that people truly calue.
Take care of yourself. Do your best to eat right, get enough sleep, and get some exercise. Consider attending a support group for caregivers or make time for tea with a friend. Seek professional help if you need it. I know it’s hard to do at such a busy time of year, but making time for yourself will make a huge difference in your level of stress. Yes, it’s hard to fit these things in at such a busy time. Make them a priority. It’s hard to do a good job of taking care of someone else if you don’t take care of yourself first.
Despite the added stress, the holidays can still be a joyful time of year. Plan ahead and take steps to deal with the stress, ask for help and enjoy the special time you have with your loved ones.