Speaker and author Francine Russo, known for her book “THEY’RE YOUR PARENTS, TOO! How Siblings Can Survive Their Parents’ Aging Without Driving Each Other Crazy,” sheds light on a common challenge faced by family caregivers during the holidays.
Stories like Leslie’s are familiar. As Leslie gears up for the holiday season, she’s already concerned about how her parents will cope with the bustling family visits. Despite managing her elderly parents’ needs daily, when her sisters and their children visit, her advice on keeping things calm seems to fall on deaf ears.
Leslie’s parents are in their 80s and battling chronic conditions like diabetes, hypertension, and arthritis. Her father’s cognitive health is also declining. Though Leslie’s sisters only visit occasionally, they seem to be in denial about their parents’ aging, sometimes even suggesting that Leslie should do more to keep them active and healthy.
If you’re in a similar boat as Leslie, wondering how to handle the holiday chaos, here are some strategies that could make the season brighter and less stressful for you and your loved ones:
Embrace the Holiday Spirit: Accept that holidays will disrupt routines. Instead of striving for “normal,” focus on making the best of this special time.
Share the Load: Communicate with your siblings beforehand. Let them know that while you’re excited to see them, you’ll also be stretched thin. Ask them to pitch in with specific tasks, like tidying up or supervising their kids.
Simplify Traditions: Don’t be afraid to tweak holiday meals. Eating out or opting for prepared food can ease your workload, especially if you’re doing most of the hosting.
Inform and Educate: Consider sending a detailed letter to your siblings about your parents’ daily routines and health challenges. If they’re coming with misconceptions, this can set a realistic picture for them.
Shift Family Dynamics: As your parents age, they may step back from their roles as mediators in family matters. Encourage visits but set boundaries for yourself; you’re not obliged to fill your parents’ shoes in resolving sibling disputes.
Stay Calm Under Criticism: If siblings unfairly judge your caregiving, offer to set up a call with your parents’ doctor. This can provide them with a professional perspective on the situation.
Call in the Experts: Consider a meeting with a social worker or geriatric care manager, who can mediate family discussions and provide guidance on distributing caregiving tasks.
Seek Professional Help When Needed: If balancing caregiving with other responsibilities becomes too much, a geriatric care manager can assess your parents’ needs and plan accordingly. And yes, they are available during holidays too!
Make Time for Joy: Seize moments of happiness with your siblings. Accepting their offer to take over for a while can provide you a much-needed break and a chance to recharge.
Holidays bring families together, offering a chance to align on caregiving responsibilities and enjoy time with loved ones. While it may not be without its challenges, with a little flexibility and support, you can make these gatherings a source of joy and a way to strengthen the family’s approach to caregiving. So take a deep breath, step back when you need to, and remember to savor the precious moments too.
We hope this information is helpful to you in the important work you do as a family caregiver.
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