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Marissa Salvesen

By: Marissa Salvesen on December 4th, 2014

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'Tis the Season: Managing Caregiver Stress During the Holidays

assisted living  |  caregiver tips  |  holiday season  |  caregiver stress  |  Aging & Caregiving

0086_20141010_133614-compressorThe holidays may be all about peace, love and joy, but for many caregivers the time between Thanksgiving and the new year can be filled with stress and frustration.

Read on to learn how to manage your caregiving responsibilities while still celebrating the reason for the season.

Refine Your Wish List

Most people are busy during the holidays, but that doesn’t mean their desire to help is any less. Let friends, family and members of your community know what’s on your wish list as a caregiver this year. You may be pleasantly surprised by the abundance of “gifts” you receive -- from respite care offers to home repairs.

Plan and Prioritize

Any task becomes more stressful when time is a factor. Certain jobs -- such as shopping for gifts and menu planning -- can be accomplished in advance. By identifying everything on your “to do" list and making a schedule for getting things done, you can enjoy a sense of accomplishment as the calendar days dwindle. 

Accept and Adapt

While you may have a vision of recreating all of your family’s cherished holiday traditions, doing so may not be possible in light of your new caregiving responsibilities. Evaluate your own expectations to determine what’s realistic: for example, if you have always hosted a sit-down dinner at your home, you may need to hand the job off to someone else this year.

Make sure to let others know what to expect so you're all on the same page. Also, consider starting new traditions to make up for ones you’ve let go, such as looking at family photos or videos, visiting with far-off relatives, or volunteering for a special cause.

Consider Your Loved One’s Needs

If your loved one is cognitively impaired or easily overwhelmed in unfamiliar situations, keep his/her capabilities at the forefront. Designate a quiet space and limit the amount of visitors at any given time. Additionally, determine which activities and events are within your loved one’s comfort zone and stay within them. Simplifying helps minimize stress and maximize enjoyment for you and your loved one.

But Don’t Forget Your Own

You may be focused on the needs of your loved one during the holiday season, but don’t neglect yourself. Set aside time to get your shopping done or just go for a walk. If you plan on using professional help, be sure to book earlier: homecare workers are in great demand during this time of the year.

Also, be aware of your feelings and on the lookout for stress. It may be the “season of giving,” but burnout is an unfortunate reality for many caregivers during this time of year.

Reflect and Connect

While caregiving is a challenge, it also comes with rewards. Set aside some time this season to reflect on the joys of sharing this journey with your loved one. Attend a church service together, do something to serve others, see a holiday show, offer a gift of time, talent, or treasure, or do some baking together. Planning an activity ahead of time can give both of you something to look forward to and strengthen your relationship.

The holidays are also a great opportunity to thank the people who lighten your load throughout the year. While it’s important to allow yourself to feel normal emotions, such as frustration, fear and guilt, counting your blessings can help you stay positive.

Key Takeaways

  • While the holidays are joyous, they can also be stressful -- particularly for caregivers.
  • Don’t attempt to replicate past holidays; rather, focus on your capabilities -- and the comfort of your loved one -- in the here and now.
  • Simplify your holidays by maintaining doable traditions and opting out of others.
  • Communication is key: the more others know about your plans and needs, the more they can help.
  • You may be a caregiver to your parent or other loved one, but you are also responsible for your own personal care: make sure to take time out for yourself.

About Marissa Salvesen

My journey into the world of senior living began when I started working for United Methodist Homes in 2010. Starting as an Activities Director at one of our-winning assisted and independent living communities and then transitioning to Marketing and Promotions Manager for UMH, I now work as the Manager of Mission Development, fostering the Mission and Values of our organization. I love sharing stories about the many ways we build meaningful relationships and enrich the lives of those we serve, and am proud to be part of building UMH’s 140-year legacy of caring. Wondering what makes our communities such special places to live and work? Connect with me and find out!

Our Blog is a 2016 Platinum Generations Award Winner! The Generations Award is an annual international competition for excellence in senior marketing recognizing professionals who have communicated to the 50+ Mature Markets.