The holidays always have the potential to be the most stressful time of year. Being a caregiver for an aging parent simply adds another layer of stress to the mix. For many people, what may have once been their favorite time of year quickly becomes a dreaded event when weighed down with the added responsibility of caring for a loved one.
Sunrise Senior Living put together this great infographic about what Caregivers experience around the holidays. Not surprisingly, they found that 4 in 10 caregivers need extra support during the holidays. Lena Horne once said, "It's not the load that breaks you down; it's the way you carry it."
Here are some tips to help you carry your load a little more easily this holiday season:
Simplify. Whether you are planning a Thanksgiving dinner or a Christmas brunch, keep in mind that you are probably short on time this year. Not putting pressure on yourself to cook a five-course meal, choosing to order in or encouraging guests to bring their own dish for a potluck event is guaranteed to make your experience better.
You might also consider using paper plates and plastic silverware to remove an extra step from your clean-up process.
Plan Ahead. If you are going to cook a big meal for people this holiday season, give yourself as much lead time as possible and freeze the dishes that you can. This will help you with time management on the day of your event. If your loved one doesn't already live with you and is coming in for the holiday, keep in mind that they might need a quiet place to escape the chaos or even take a nap. Plan to set aside a private space or room where they can find comfort and relaxation.
Enlist Help. There's no reason you should have to bear the burden of planning a holiday event and taking care of a loved one on your own. The great part about this time of year is that you are usually surrounded by family and friends -- all you have to do is ask. Communicate your needs to them early on to make sure that everyone is prepared and there are no surprises.
Create a Health Checklist. If your loved one does not live with you, make sure you create a checklist of their medications, diet restrictions and health needs in order to keep them on their regular routine while they are with you for the holidays. If your loved one's visit makes you see that their health is on the decline to a point of worry and don't feel comfortable with them living alone any longer, this might be a great opportunity to address it.
Don't think they should be driving anymore? Try using ElderCare.gov for resources in your neighborhood. Think they need help at home during the day? Check out Care.com to search for trustworthy caregivers in the area. If they are really adamant about wanting to be on their own, consider a medical alert device from MedicalGuardian.com which will allow them to remain protected, connected and safe in their own home.
Make Sure to Set Aside Time for Yourself. Whether it's scheduling 30 minutes of quiet time to read a book, take a hot bath or exercising at the gym, it's important not to let your own needs fall by the wayside because you are caring for a loved one for the holidays. It's easy to feel overwhelmed when you are surrounded by people for an extended period of time, so scheduling in some "me" time will help to keep you centered and ultimately serve as a better caregiver during this time.
Regardless of all these little things that add up to major stress for the holidays, try to remember that your loved one will not be able to spend the holidays with you forever. Take time to recognize that these moments you have left with them is a gift and in this fast-paced world it's a blessing to be able to gather your entire family around you for a day or two.
After all, that's what the holidays are all about, right?