The holiday season is typically thought of as a time of merriment, festivities, and visiting with family and friends. For older adults, however, the holidays can present some very unique challenges. For example, crowded family gatherings might be overwhelming, particularly for those with dementia. As a caregiver, you have more to think about than just yourself. Taking time to plan ahead can ease the stress and help make things a lot smoother and easier.
Here are some helpful tips to ease the burden during this stressful time of year:
- Have guests come to the home of the person you are caring for or your home if you are providing care there. This will reduce caregiver stress for you both by keeping festivities in a familiar environment and reduce the stress of traveling.
- Have a potluck meal instead of having to cook everything yourself. Family and friends will probably be excited about contributing to the holiday meal and it can really reduce your stress. Also, don’t invite everyone you know. Keeping the number of people lower will reduce the noise and help reduce the stress level.
- Think about positive things. There are any number of things at odds for your time and attention during a day. It is easy to get bogged down physically and emotionally. Take time to think about the good things in your life; a phone call from a friend, the smiles of your children or even listening to your favorite song.
- Make sure everyone knows about any limitations the person you are caring for has before they arrive. This will prepare everyone and help minimize frustration or embarrassment.
- Ask for assistance. Again, most people are happy to do something; even if it is small. Taking advantage of their generosity means only asking. You don’t have to do everything yourself.
- Let gifts contribute to caregiving. If someone asks what kind of gift to bring, suggest something practical, such as easy to prepare meals, gift certificates or even “I owe you’s” for running errands or shopping.
- Keep it bright! Keeping your home bright with natural sunlight or sufficient lighting will boost your spirit during the gloomy days of Winter.
- Don’t fall prey to not being active. Sure, you have many things you have to get done, but do some things you love, as well. Work on a personal project you’ve been ‘meaning to get to,’ go outside and enjoy the beauty of Winter, play a game with the family, or work a few puzzles. Whatever you do, keep your mind busy and don’t keep to yourself too much.
- Reach out to your family and friends. Nothing takes a bite out of stress like a conversation with a friend or loved one.
- Don’t over-commit. Plan on attending events or celebrations that mean the most to you. Learn to say, “Thank you, but I can’t.” Committing to too much will increase stress levels and get you off track.
- Make a good holiday plan ahead of time. Contact guests, plan meals and shop way before the company arrives. This will give you more time to take short breaks during the holiday season.
- Take a break. Have a friend or another family member come in for an afternoon while you go out and do something nice for yourself. Have a massage, take a long walk or have coffee with a friend.
Most of all, take a moment of quiet for yourself to be thankful. We all have something to be thankful for; think about the blessings you have in your life. Your family’s smiles, the hand of a friend, food on the table, a home, love … for everyone it will be different. For more information on this read our “Stress Free Holidays – Caring for the Caregiver”. It is packed full of resources to help you navigate the holiday season.