The holiday season is a time for love and cheer, but the festivities may bring feelings of stress and depression for those caring for loved ones with illnesses. Caregivers are already managing the daily needs of their loved ones, and holiday celebrations add more to-dos on the list along with a healthy dose of expectations from holidays past. The festivities may look a little different this year, but that doesn’t mean they are any less special or important. To help manage caregivers’ stress and those who are ill, we have a few tips to help navigate the holidays without feeling overwhelmed.
Before planning big elaborate get-togethers, or packed holiday itineraries, take a moment to ask yourself and your family members what is most important to them for the holidays. A sick family member may easily be tired and not keep up with a packed list of activities. Scaling things back to the most important activities, like a meal or a movie, will take the pressure off you as a caregiver and make the day easier for your sick loved one who may need some time to relax and recharge. You may not be able to do everything done in years prior, but the family will be able to enjoy quality time together.
Make Accommodations & Plan Ahead
If your loved one is too ill to attend the holiday festivities, bring the holidays to them! If they cannot move around the house, decorate their room, and schedule some family time in their space, so they feel included. Make sure your loved one knows they can tell you if they need to rest or need space. If they cannot eat the same meal as everyone else, make sure they have a meal to enjoy that they can eat and feel a part of the celebration. Planning and having discussions will allow everyone to enjoy the holiday without fretting over small details the day of.
Caregivers are already juggling jobs, housekeeping, medications, and more. Delegating some of the to-do lists will help caregivers avoid burnout during the holiday season. If you usually prepare an entire meal, maybe consider a potluck this year or try ordering take-out. Assign decorating to the kids or family and friends. Do not hesitate to ask for help from your support group. This could include asking someone to help with a grocery run or making sure someone else is on dish duty.
Despite planning ahead of time, nothing ever goes exactly according to plan. Make sure the lines of communication are open between you, your ill loved one, and the rest of the family. No plan should be set in stone. Let your loved one know that there are no expectations on their participation. If they feel unable to participate in the festivities as discussed, that is okay. Often, a sick family member may feel like they are being tiptoed around or the center of attention because they are ill. Remember you are gathering with your loved ones to enjoy everyone, and the person that is ill wants to enjoy the holidays as they have in previous years past. Even though everyone may be feeling grief or stress about a loved one who is sick, it is essential to treat them as you did before. Reminisce, chat about current events, and enjoy their company.
Paring down events, clear communication, and flexibility will allow a caregiver time and space to enjoy the holidays without a massive cloud of stress and anxiety over them. Caregiving is already a tough job, and adding to it can make getting through the holiday season feel impossible. In addition, caregivers must make sure to maintain their own physical and mental health so they can be at their best for their ill loved ones. If you are caring for a sick family member this season, make sure to ask for help and give yourself a break when it comes to holiday expectations. In the end, it will make for a more memorable and enjoyable holiday for the whole family.