Navigating Caregiving and the Holiday Season


December 3, 2023

Balancing your own expectations and those of your family members can be exhausting and stressful, especially during the holiday season. In this article, we’ll explore strategies for managing holiday expectations and self-care during this challenging time of year.

Consider the following points when making holiday plans:

  1. Realistic Planning: Avoid overextending yourself with elaborate plans and preparations. Set realistic expectations about what you can realistically accomplish.

  2. Care Receiver’s Health: Take into account your care recipient’s health condition when planning holiday events or gatherings. Be prepared for plans to change as their health evolves.

  3. Their Wishes: Consult your care recipient about their preferences for the holiday season. Understand their expectations and desires.

  4. Adapt Traditions: Recognize that it might be necessary to adapt or change your family’s holiday traditions. What once worked well may no longer be feasible or suitable.

  5. Acknowledging Loss: Understand that the holidays can be a reflective and sometimes melancholic time for your care recipient as they think about the losses in their life. Respect their emotional process.

  6. Stressful Gatherings: Large family gatherings can be overwhelming for older family members. Despite their enjoyment of the company, the chaos, noise, and activity can become tiring. Ensure they have a quiet space to retreat to if needed.

  7. Health Considerations: Stay attentive to your care recipient’s dietary requirements and medication schedules during the holidays.

Here are some ideas for activities during holiday visits or gatherings:

  • Encourage family members to engage in meaningful conversations with older relatives.
  • Share readings of favorite poems and books that hold sentimental value.
  • Consider preparing and sharing one beloved holiday dish instead of attempting a full meal.
  • Enjoy card games or watch a cherished movie together.

Choosing the right gifts can also be a source of holiday stress. Here are some gift suggestions:

  • Pay attention to your care recipient’s likes and dislikes, as well as what they have used or appreciated in the past.
  • Consider homemade gifts, as they often carry sentimental value.
  • Gift cards to their favorite restaurants can be a thoughtful choice.
  • Calendars featuring photos of their interests or hobbies.
  • Create scrapbooks, family albums, or frame cherished photos.
  • Pamper them with bath gels, body lotions, aftershave, or other self-care items.
  • Offer special coffee, tea, or their favorite food items, taking dietary restrictions into account.
  • Select clothing that you know they would appreciate and use.

Taking care of yourself as a caregiver is crucial during the holiday season. Here are some stress management reminders:

  • Recognize your limits and set realistic expectations.
  • Keep holiday plans simple and maintain your sanity.
  • Prioritize tasks and let go of things beyond your control.
  • Express love and appreciation to your loved ones.
  • Focus on taking one day at a time rather than aiming for perfection.
  • Avoid overindulging in food, alcohol, shopping, or work.
  • Preserve your sense of humor to diffuse stressful situations.
  • Prioritize regular exercise, a balanced diet, and adequate rest.

Remember to value and cherish the time spent together as a family during the holidays. Be adaptable, as what worked in the past may not be suitable this year. Above all, prioritize self-care to ensure you can provide the best support to your loved ones.

Source: 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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