Holiday planning can be overwhelming for anyone especially people caregiving for a family member. Over the next few weeks the “Getting on and Beyond” column will cover caregiver stress, senior and caregiver gift ideas and community resources that will help not only for the holidays but year round. You can still have a peaceful and fulfilling holiday season, but it may look different than years past.

Many caregivers wish to hold on to holiday traditions, but their old traditions don’t always fit with new realities. Instead of heading to the mall to check a few items off your holiday shopping list, you’re taking mom to a doctor’s appointment and then heading out to the pharmacy to pick up dad’s meds. Instead of looking forward to spending time baking, decorating and spending time with the relatives at your annual holiday gathering, you’re dreading the extra housework you’ll have to do on top of making sure Dad gets bathed each morning.

The biggest thing to remember is you are not alone. In Region’s 10 large service area, which covers six counties, we have caregivers caring for loved ones with dementia, cancer, COPD, and arthritis. We also have loved ones who are just in the early stages of aging.

Holiday Pressure Busters for Stressed Caregivers:

Keep in mind not all these tips will work for every situation; choose a few that you think will work for you and your situation.

  • Invite guests to the home of the care receiver so that he or she will be comfortable and not have to be taken out.
  • Suggest a potluck meal or ask guests to take responsibility for preparing a meal. Make clean-up easy by using festive paper plates and cups.
  • Keep the number of guests manageable. Noise and hectic activity can be difficult for a person who is frail or confused.
  • Talk to family and friends before they arrive. If the care receiver is confused, has trouble eating or has any behaviors that guests might not understand, explain the circumstances to them and tell them how to approach the situation.
  • Take the hassle out of gift giving. Consider giving a gift of love such as an offer to reserve conversation time with a friend or a promise to attend a grandchild’s school play. Caregivers who wish to purchase gifts should consider giving one gift per family, mail-ordering purchases or asking a neighbor or friend to help with shopping.
  • If guests ask what they can bring, suggest gifts that really will help — frozen prepared foods, an IOU for caregiving that offers you respite time, a trip to the beauty or barber shop for your care receiver, or an offer to run specific errands.
  • The holidays are steeped in personal, family and religious traditions. Maintaining those is a lot of responsibility for family caregivers, who are often the adult children of aging parents. As a family, ask yourself, ‘What is important to continue and what can we adapt or let go?’
  • You hear it every year – don’t over-eat during the holidays and keep exercising. That’s easier said than done, for sure. Make an effort to schedule time for exercise and keep healthy snacks handy to help avoid sugary holiday treats.
  • Difficult family dynamics can take center stage during the holidays. Conflict may arise if family members can no longer continue their traditional holiday roles. Communicating is the best way to help smooth out problems and avert new ones.
  • Nothing lifts the spirit like a good laugh! Gather friends together for a game night or to watch a funny holiday movie.
  • Approach your holiday preparations way in advance. Start making a list long before the season arrives of who can do what so that no one bears the brunt of the work.
  • Don’t let favorite traditions go by the wayside during the busy holiday season. If time or circumstances make them difficult to maintain, adapt them as necessary.
  • If someone wants to help, say “yes” to that casserole or offer to run an errand.

For more information about how a professional caregiver can meet your loved one’s specific needs and to discuss scheduling and pricing information, call Region 10’s Area Agency on Aging at (970) 249-2436.