If you are caring for an aging parent, a spouse, other family, or even a non-family member, during the Holiday Season you may be feeling some stress from a desire to keep long-standing family traditions alive and well. You and your care receiver may be feeling similar stress! How can you cope and also enjoy the holidays?
Dealing with your own expectations and those of your other family members can be tiring and stressful even without the added complexity of holiday traditions and gatherings. In this article, we will look at some ideas for managing holiday expectations  and some ideas for taking care of yourself during this stressful time of year.
Some things to consider as you think about holiday plans:
- Don’t get carried away with plans and preparations – be realistic about what you can and can’t do.
- Be sure to take your care receiver’s health condition in account as you think about any holiday events or gatherings. Remember that plans may need to change as the health of the care receiver changes.
- Ask your care recipient what THEY would like to do this holiday season – what are their expectations.
- Realize that it may be time to make some changes in your family holiday traditions . Things that worked well in the past may just no longer be reasonable.
- Recognize that the holidays may be a stressful time for your care recipient as they reflect on the losses in their lives. This is a normal process and one that you should respect.
- Realize that large family gatherings can be very stressful for older family members. No matter how much they enjoy seeing everyone and being around children and grandchildren, they can find all the chaos, noise and activity tiring after a while. Be sure they have a space where they can get away from all the activity for a while. In fact, if they find a lot of activity very stressful, you might set them up in a separate area and let family members take turns visiting with them.
- Pay attention to diet requirements and medication schedules for your care recipient.
Here are some ideas for things to do during a holiday visit/gathering:
- Encourage family members to sit and talk with older relatives.
- Read traditional favorite poems and books
- Prepare and share at least one favorite holiday dish instead of trying to prepare the whole meal
- Play cards
- Watch a favorite movie together
Gift ideas can be another source of holiday stress. Here are a few suggestions:
- Listen and observe what they do and don’t like, what they have received and used or not used.
- Give something home made
- Gift cards to favorite restaurants
- Calendars with photos of something that interests them
- Scrapbooks, family albums, framed photos
- Bath gels, body lotion, aftershave, etc.
- Special coffee or tea or a favorite food item (keeping dietary restrictions in mind)
- Clothing you know they would appreciate and use.
Taking care of yourself as a caregiver is extremely important during the holiday season. Here are a few stress management reminders.
- Recognize your limits
- Be realistic
- Keep it simple and sane
- Let go of what you cannot control
- Tell people that you love them
- Take things one day at a time
- Don’t expect perfection
- Don’t overdo – food, alcohol, shopping, work…
- Keep your sense of humor
- Exercise, eat right, get enough rest.
Value and appreciate the time you have together as a family during the holiday season. Recognize that things change over time – what worked last year might not be a good idea this year. And above all – remember to take care of yourself!
Written by Zanda Hilger, LPC
We hope this information is helpful to you in the important work you do as a family caregiver.
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