There is no doubt the holidays can be demanding. For family caregivers, this time of year can be even more difficult due to less time and additional responsibilities. FirstLight Home Care has wrapped up some tips for caregivers to help them make it through the holiday season with more joy and less stress.
Establish ground rules. Communication is key. If regular family visits are part of your holiday traditions, make sure everyone is on the same page. In advance of family arriving, make sure you communicate the physical and mental changes or abilities of the loved one in your care so that there are no surprises. It’s okay to plan for visits throughout the holidays but also plan for plenty of downtime for your loved and for you. You can say “no” to invitations and added responsibilities. Everything in moderation!
Simplify. Ease the holiday chaos and burden by simplifying. Minimize holiday decorations in and around your loved one’s home. Also, be aware that flashing lights can be frightening to some Alzheimer’s and dementia patients, and wires and decorative items can become tripping hazards.
Plan ahead of time. We know this is easier said than done. But the more you can do in advance of company arriving, the better it will be for you and the family member in your care.
- Encourage some of your family get-togethers to be potluck meals instead of cooking yourself.
- Stock up on groceries in the event of impromptu visits from friends and family.
- Purchase gift cards at the grocery store for last-minute gift-giving needs.
- Hire a professional caregiver to help you with day-to-day activities around the home or with specific errands so that you have the time and energy to enjoy the holidays.
Maintain routines. Keep your loved one on a regular routine as much as possible. Sticking with their daily habits of eating, sleeping, and medication schedules will help with behavioral and emotional challenges, and it can reduce feelings of anxiety and stress.
Ask for assistance. Talk with family members who may have time off during the holidays or who are in town visiting. Enlist the help of neighbors or other outside resources, even if it is something small.
- Ask family members to help with grocery shopping.
- Have friends and family bring over meals that can be frozen in advance of upcoming gatherings.
- Ask a neighbor to help string up holiday lights.
- Take advantage of local gift-wrapping services.
- Hire a professional caregiver to come in and support you before, during and after the holidays. Companion care services can help with light housekeeping, shopping, errands, and transportation as needed.
Make a list and check it twice. If people ask you for gift ideas, consider gifts for both you and your loved one that will help throughout the holidays and contribute to your caregiving responsibilities:
- Gift certificates to local restaurants or a grocery store
- Homemade meals that can be frozen
- Membership to a food club or weekly food delivery service
- Housecleaning services
- Help for you. Ask them to give some of their time each to help you get a much-deserved day of rest.
Remember self-care. The holidays can be a crazy time of year and it can be easy to let your own needs slip. However, it has been proven that when you take care of yourself, you take better care of others. Watch for these signs of caregiver burnout:
- Loss of motivation.
- Feelings of disconnection with your loved one, other relationships, or work.
- Feeling depressed, irritable or hopeless.
- Lack of interest in activities you once enjoyed.
To prevent this, make time for exercise, eat healthy meals and take time for yourself. Have a friend or paid caregiver come in for an afternoon while you go out and do something you enjoy. Read a book, get a massage, take a long walk or have coffee with a friend.
‘Tis the holiday season! It’s not just about “surviving” this time of the year – it’s also about thriving.
What tips do you have for fellow family caregivers that help you make the most of this amazing season? Feel free to comment below or join the holiday fun over on our Facebook page.
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