Caregiving is stressful. Of that there is no denying and when you add the holiday hustle and bustle into the mix, you have the potential to amp up the stress and reduce the joy you should be experiencing this holiday season. When you take a step back and think about it, the holidays are about friends and family and being together; it’s not about perfection and a clean house!
Here are some tips that you can take to heart to help make certain your holiday is enjoyable and as stress-free as it can be:
- The holidays are not about perfection: the perfect tree, the perfect meal, the perfectly cleaned home. Keep your decorations low-key, you don’t have to outdo the neighbors with your light display. Decorate with items that have particular meaning to you and your family without going overboard with totes and totes of decorations that need to be unpacked and then re-packed once the holiday has passed.
- If you’re being invited to visit friends or relatives and there just doesn’t seem to be enough hours in a day – with work, caring for aging relatives and your own family – don’t be afraid to set limits. “We would love to come and visit, but can only stay a couple of hours.” Set the expectations up front and stick to your time frame.
- You don’t have to do it alone. Would your family disown you if you purchased a pie or two rather than making them? Could you get away with bakery cookies? Try it and see how many hours you could free up from not spending all of your time in the kitchen. If you simply can’t give up that part of your family tradition, then start a new tradition and ask for help. Also, don’t be afraid to delegate. If you need to, hire a housecleaning service to come in and do a deep clean on your home before the relatives arrive. Ask guests to bring a dish to pass – start a new tradition by adding your guests’ favorite dishes to your menu!
- If someone asks you what you’d like for a gift, don’t say, “Oh, I don’t know or I don’t need anything.” Let them treat you if they want to! Ask for a gift certificate for a massage or a restaurant or tickets to a movie or a play you’d been dying to see. Ask them to pay for a trip to your favorite spa or salon!
- Take time to share family stories. If you’re gathering family stories, make sure someone is recording them – either digitally or on paper – and take photos so you can capture the memories shared and have them as a physical token of your time together.
- When you send your greeting cards, include a note that reads, “Mom and Dad are doing XYZ… it’s been a great, or a trying year, but we are moving forward.” Keep the note non-accusatory and you just might garner assistance from distant relatives who truly may not know what you’re doing as a caregiver.
- Don’t be afraid to say “no.” If you truly don’t have the energy to attend another party or make another of your “famous pumpkin pies” then say so. Don’t make excuses, simply say you don’t have time and leave it at that, but thank them for having asked you.
- Take time to count your blessings. Yes, the role of caregiver can be an exhausting one, but there are rewards. You are spending quality time with your aging loved ones. You are providing them with love and support and helping them to age in place. Even if they are in an assisted living or a nursing home environment, you will still likely be called upon or feel compelled to visit regularly and that can be a strain as well. Make the time you spend there quality time talking, playing games and sharing memories.
- Ask siblings or other relatives to help chip in for a Medical Alert System. The peace of mind in knowing that your relatives will have immediate access to a trained professional from if they suffer a medical emergency or a fall while you are not in attendance may allow you to regain some freedom without having the worry of them being alone.
Take time, amidst the rush of the season to care for yourself and to sit back and simply relax!