What many people see as the most wonderful time of year—the holiday season—can actually be the most stressful for caregivers. The long, busy days and demands of caregiving are often difficult for family members to manage. Once you add the hustle and bustle of a typical holiday season to the mix, the result can be an exhausted, stressed family caregiver.
How can you juggle the demands of caregiving and still enjoy the holidays? We have a few stress-busting suggestions for caregivers to consider.
Beating Holiday Stress When You Are a Caregiver
- Make time for exercise: While it might feel like it’s impossible to do, taking at least 15–30 minutes to exercise each day can help you manage stress. The good news is that breaking it up in smaller increments will still give you the same rewards as 30 continuous minutes of exercise. You could do 15 minutes of Pilates in the morning and a 15-minute walk in the evening if that works best for your schedule.
- Set realistic goals: Many of us have unrealistic expectations for how the holidays should be. Images of beautifully decorated homes, formal sit-down dinners, fancy cocktail parties, and creatively wrapped gifts are everywhere in the weeks and months leading up to the holiday season. It’s difficult not to fall into the comparison trap. But having more realistic goals will allow you to relax more and enjoy time with loved ones.
- Ask for help: Another trap family caregivers often fall into is believing they can’t ask for or accept help caring for their loved one. While it’s important to do all year, it’s especially important to ask for help during this busy time. Remind yourself that if you experience a stress-related health crisis of your own, you may be unable to care for your family member at all. If you don’t have other family members who can assist, explore options in your local community. Some churches and synagogues have friendly visitor programs with volunteers who visit homebound seniors. Home care agencies and assisted living communities also offer short-term respite care.
- Adapt time-consuming traditions: Think about ways you can scale back some of the more time-consuming holiday traditions in your life. Can you give gift cards this year in lieu of gifts? Or host a cocktail party instead of a formal dinner? Maybe send out a festive holiday email instead of cards? Remember, adapting some traditions while you are a caregiver doesn’t mean you can’t return to them in the future.
- Learn to say “no”: Many of us feel duty-bound to say “yes” during the holidays. Whether it is bringing a dessert to a school function or attending a holiday gathering, the demands can quickly add up. Give yourself permission to say “no” without feeling guilty. Explain that you are a caregiver and your schedule is tough. People will usually understand.
Talking about Senior Living during the Holidays
If the demands of caregiving are getting to be too much, the holidays can be a good time to discuss senior living options. Families are together more, which makes it easier for everyone to talk. Read “Are the Holidays a Good Time to Visit Assisted Living Communities?” for some helpful information.
Source: Sunrise Senior Living