Few things in a caregiver’s life are more stressful than the holiday season. In spite of the many appointments, medications, activities of daily living, and other daily tasks that must be managed, the holidays pile on a whole new layer of stress and responsibility — including obligations to the rest of your family, all while you grapple with guilt over whether you’re continuing to meet your loved one’s needs adequately. Sounds like a picnic, right?
Caregiving through the holiday season doesn’t have to leave you ready for an emotional breakdown. In fact, the holiday season doesn’t have to impact you at all if you handle it right. There are three important considerations if you’re facing the upcoming holiday season as a busy caregiver: Planning, asking for help, and simplification.
Planning Reduces Last-Minute Frenzies
Caregivers often juggle the responsibilities of a career and their caregiving duties. When you add planning a massive family meal to that mix, it’s easy to lose control over the small details. Even something as simple as running to the local grocery store to buy another carton of eggs becomes a major challenge if you have a loved one at home who can’t be left alone, and there’s no one around as backup.
You can avoid many of these headaches with more careful planning. Right, you say, who has time to craft carefully-laid plans in addition it takes to just get the tasks done? Many people find that they’re actually able to work through tasks much more quickly and efficiently when they have a clear schedule and plan to follow.
It can be as simple as a basic to-do list — and the advantage you have as you’re reading this today is that you can start that planning NOW. Make a list of the major tasks and events that are coming up for the holidays. Start adding specific tasks as you think of them that need to be accomplished leading up to each event. As those dates draw near, set goals and deadlines for yourself — and get the tasks that can be completed well in advance done first. When the holidays are just a few days away, you don’t have those other details weighing on your mind and creating more stress.
Asking for Help Doesn’t Make You Less Amazing
It’s a suggestion you’ll hear over and over again when you read any kind of advice for caregivers: Ask for help. It’s an obvious suggestion, but one that is actually difficult for many caregivers to carry out. That’s because a sense of obligation, guilt and insufficiency take over. Many caregivers don’t want to be a burden to other family members, and they feel as though their loved one’s care is their responsibility and that they’re somehow inadequate if they can’t handle every last detail without assistance.
But in most cases, other loved ones are more than happy to help — they just aren’t sure how they can help and may not want to make things more complicated for you. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for some relief, whether that means delegating some of the typical holiday tasks to others or enlisting another friend or family member to help care for your loved one while you run errands, tackle some holiday shopping, or handle necessary preparations for family get-togethers.
Simplifying Eases Tremendous Stress
There are some family traditions that are just too hard to give up. If your entire extended family consisting of aunts, uncles, third cousins and their closest neighbors coming to your annual holiday meal is a tradition that’s been in place your whole life, you might not want to be the one to shut down the operation. And traditions like these are incredibly valuable to the elderly, giving younger generations a chance to create some of the same cherished memories you’ve held dear for decades.
It’s up to you to determine how valuable certain traditions are — and one way to navigate this issue is to suggest to your family that you’re considering slimming down a few major events or traditions. Others might step forward and ask where you need help and what they can to to make it possible to continue those traditions or even offer to take over planning and managing a particular event entirely. In other cases, some traditions may carry less long-standing value and can be easily simplified or streamlined to drastically reduce your to-do list.
You can also continue to hold the same major traditions but in a simpler way. Instead of a massive, four-course meal prepared entirely by yourself for 30 people, make it a potluck this year. Use paper plates, napkins and silverware that can be easily tossed in the trash instead of spending three exhausting hours on cleanup after everyone leaves. There are lots of ways you can simplify big traditional events while still maintaining the meaning — and that’s what’s most valuable to families, not whether they enjoyed their meals on fine china or disposable paper plates.
This year, focus your holiday season on the things that are most meaningful to you. What memories does your loved one value and cherish? At the end of the day, it’s the memories that count — not the details. If you’re a caregiver this holiday season, start planning, simplifying and lining up help now so you can enjoy making memories instead of stressing.
Image via Stock.xchng by gerbrak
Article by Angela Stringfellow