11th Dec 2014

For many caregivers the very thought of an upcoming “Holiday Season” is something they dread. For those caregivers who juggle work, family and caring for a loved one, the holiday season can create additional stress, to an already seven day work week. The holidays may additionally be stressful for seniors with travel plans, changing a schedule they are happy with, and even bring on additional depression accompanying the holiday season. Here are several tips to allow caregivers to enjoy the holiday season and ways for seniors to step back and enjoy this time of year.
Modify Family Traditions
Holidays normally mean visitors and that means scrubbing and cleaning the house, cooking for a crowd, and hosting a holiday celebration. If an older relative traditionally hosts Christmas dinner, consider passing the tradition on to the younger generation of family members. If the relative insists on hosting, ask younger family members in advance to help prepare part of the meal, decorate, or clean the house.
Skip the Mall
Seniors often experience added stress and safety concerns when faced with the hectic nature of holiday shopping. Consider skipping the mall, unless a picture with Santa is part of the family tradition, and instead purchase holiday gifts online, from a catalog, or local non-mall retail outlets. This can be a great opportunity to reminisce about favorite gifts from the past, or past holidays.
Decrease Gifts
One of the great fears of many senior citizens, especially those on a fixed income, is the fear that they won’t have enough money to pay monthly bills, and then to have to come up with extra money for gifts for a larger family, it can be very taxing on the senior’s emotional status. Suggest to family members that a “gift exchange” may be more appropriate and reduce the stress and embarrassment of not having sufficient funds to buy for all of the children, spouses, grandchildren, etc.
Rest after Traveling
If extended travel is in the forecast, consider adding additional time to decompress. Whether they travel by car, plane, or rail, keep in mind that an older relative might want to rest upon arrival. Offer the options of relaxing on the sofa and watching television (such as a holiday moviel) or taking a nap instead of planning a day of shopping and visiting.
Make Homes Accessible
If older relatives are visiting for the holidays, ensure your home is safe and accessible. Try to remove tripping hazards, such as area rugs. Consider having your relative sleep on the first floor of your home. If that’s not possible, let them stay in a room close to the bathroom. In addition, use nightlights in the hallway so they don’t fall in the dark.
Create Time for Yourself
Don’t let the holiday season planning, shopping, and stress get the best of you. Find respite care for your loved one so that you can take time and de-stress. Once you’ve created some time for yourself, have lunch with friends, read a book you’ve been hoping to read, or spend time with your children. The greatest gift that you can give to yourself and your loved one is your calm and centered presence. Everything else can wait!
Find Senior-Friendly Events in the Community
If you’re looking for an activity that your aging parents can participate in without the entire family, the senior center in your area may coordinate caroling, cooking or gift-wrapping events that will get your loved one out of the house and engaged in the community. It will give you, the family caregiver, some time for you!
Make a New Year’s Resolution
One of the best resolutions may be to resolve to spend quality time with your aging loved ones, to bring the grandchildren for more frequent visits, or to look into home care or nursing home care — to relieve some of the caregiving responsibilities from yourself, and ensure the well-being of your aging family member(s).
Set reasonable and manageable limits for yourself.
Be realistic about what you can and cannot do, as well as what you want and don’t want to do.
Don’t compare this holiday season with the nostalgia of the past. This is a new season and can be enjoyed in a new way.
Ask for help in specific ways. People want to be useful to you, but may not know how they can best help. Be sure to accept their offer and be “specific” about what you like. People can’t read your mind!
Don’t stay isolated. Maintain your social interactions with friends and family. Have fun, laugh and focus on something other than your caregiving responsibilities.
Avoid overstimulation. If you’re a caregiver for a person with dementia, avoid overly stimulating environments which can increase his/her stress AND yours. Invite fewer people to dinner, for example.
Watch what you eat and drink. It’s OK to treat yourself, but avoid the temptation to overeat those holiday goodies or overindulge in alcoholic beverages.
Get your exercise. Take a walk, do yoga, take a bike ride…all can be a tremendous benefit to your physical and emotional health.
Find time to do something you enjoy. Reading, walking, listening to music, visiting with friends, gardening, or even learning something new.
Get enough sleep. You’ll be more stressed if your body is tired and drained of energy.

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