The holidays can be the most precious times of all for caregivers and their families, but the season can also be difficult for many caregivers. Fatigue and stress can make the holidays especially challenging.
If you are spending the holidays as a caregiver, you are not alone. There are approximately 43.5 million unpaid caregivers in the United States, according to the National Center on Aging. More than 15 million adult family caregivers provide care for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia. This means millions of people just like you are looking forward to – or worrying about – spending the holidays as a caregiver.
Providing care during the holidays puts you at special risk for exhaustion and burnout, which can ruin the seasonal festivities. Fortunately, you can take steps to ensure a merry holiday season for yourself and for the person you care for.
Tips for Spending the Holiday as a Caregiver
Put self-care at the top of your holiday wish list
Taking care of yourself is the most important thing you can do for yourself and for your family this holiday season. Eat nutritious meals, get regular exercise, avoid unhealthy lifestyle choices and, most importantly, enjoy all the fun the holidays have to offer. Buy yourself a nice gift, for example, or treat yourself to a holiday concert.
Focus on the most meaningful moments of the holiday season
The holidays will be less stressful for you and everyone else if you simplify things while still embracing the season. Instead of decorating the entire house, limit decorations to just one or two rooms. Plan to engage in only the most sacred holiday traditions or those seasonal festivities that you find most meaningful.
Ask your friends and family to help create a festive atmosphere
Holiday cards are an easy way to make any room more festive. Ask your friends and family members to bring and hang Christmas cards where your loved one can see them – the cards can even be from previous years. Have others create Christmas playlists with their favorite carols and songs.
Recognize the signs of stress and burnout
As a caregiver, you work hard every day of the year to provide a safe, comfortable home for the person in your care. You probably work even harder during the holidays, especially if you are hosting any events or accommodating houseguests. This extra work can cause stress and burnout, which are two of every caregiver’s worst enemies.
- Depression, anxiety or irritability
- Feeling run down or tired
- Difficulty sleeping
- New or worsening health problems
- Overreacting to minor problems
- Abusing alcohol or drugs, including prescription medications
Signs and symptoms of caregiver burnout include:
- Having much less energy than you used to
- Catching every cold and flu going around
- Constant exhaustion, even after sleeping or taking a break from caregiving
- Neglecting your own needs because you are either too busy or you just don’t care anymore
- Feeling like your entire life revolves around caregiving – and it brings you little satisfaction
- You have trouble relaxing, even when someone else is available to help
- You find yourself feeling increasingly impatient and irritable toward the person you are caring for
- Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness
Each of these can pose a problem any time of year, but the signs and symptoms of stress and burnout can make the holidays especially uncomfortable. Mood changes, overreactions and excessive drinking can spark or worsen the family arguments that sometimes erupt during the holidays.
Expect fatigue and irritability – in yourself and in others
The hustle and bustle of the holidays can be exhausting, even for the young and the fit. Anticipate holiday fatigue and irritability, and schedule rest breaks for everyone.
Anticipate and avoid your own holiday hot buttons
Does holiday shopping in overcrowded stores bug you? Learn to shop online. Do you not enjoy baking Christmas cookies? Buy them at the bakery!
Identify and use your best stress relievers
Does going for a walk alleviate your stress? How about talking to a friend? Identify your most effective stress relievers, and plan to use them throughout the holiday season.
Start new traditions
Embrace the most important family traditions, of course, but do not be afraid of starting new traditions. Consider ordering out instead of cooking a large meal, for example, or sing carols as a family instead of going out to a holiday concert.
Create memories that last
Use your smart phone to capture pictures and images of the holiday festivities. Print out the still images and have your family help paste the pictures into a photo album. Upload videos to the internet, and watch them together whenever you want to bring back memories of this holiday season.
Remain in the moment
Try to push aside all the stress, anxiety, worry, irritation, fear, fatigue, sadness and craziness of the holiday season and just focus on the festivities occurring around you. Take time to study the faces of your friends and family, listen to their laughter and cherish the bonds you share. Think of all the things you have accomplished as a family, and look boldly toward your futures together in the years to come.
Gull Creek offers a wide variety of amenities that make life more comfortable and enjoyable, especially around the holidays. Museums, gallery shows and performances make life at Gull Creek stimulating and interesting during the holidays and all year long. Contact us today to learn more about our home or to schedule a tour.