The holidays are busy times, but for those caring for an elderly parent or loved one, the holidays add even more of a challenge. Already feeling overwhelmed with daily caregiving tasks, caregivers may view holiday preparations as more of a burden than a joy.
“Ideally, holiday gatherings with family are supposed to be joyful and stress-free,” says De Rosenberry, Senior Services Program Manager for Family Service Agency. “Yet, it can be these holiday traditions that add another layer of pressure to those caring for someone.”
The dinner at Aunt Jean’s house may involve a five-hour drive that your aging parent just can’t do anymore. Is it okay to bow out of long-standings family traditions? And how do you prepare family members for the changes in mom or dad since they saw them last?
Family Service Agency (FSA) understands these challenges and offers these tips from its Caregiver Support Program.
“Give yourself the right to scale down this year,” says Rosenberry. “It’s okay to modify your family traditions in alignment with your current situation and the comfort level of your loved one.”
This may mean having another family member host the more time-intensive festivities and reducing your time away from home. Choose which events to attend and whom to invite for a visit based on what would be the simplest and most enjoyable for you and the person you care for.
It is common for caregivers to be frustrated with family members who they feel are not “pulling their weight” in caregiving responsibilities. If this holds true for you, and your goal is to enjoy the holidays, consider putting those feelings on hold until after the holiday season.
“In the meantime, ask if they are able or willing to pitch in and help with shopping, repairs, or taking the person you are caring for out for an activity. If not, find a way to focus on the positive aspects of their visit,” offers Rosenberry.
Being open and honest about the realities of your caregiving situation gives others the opportunity to respond with assistance. The act of communicating what you do for your loved one and how it impacts your life can help reduce some of your feelings of isolation and lack of appreciation— feelings that are common in caregivers.
“Family members visiting from out of town may not instinctively know how to help.” says Rosenberry. “They may be shocked at their loved ones’ physical or cognitive decline and may seem judgmental. Preparing them ahead of time can make all the difference.”
Let Go of Guilt
If you are providing care for a loved one you deserve a little happiness and joy during the holidays as well. Indulge yourself a little, guilt-free, as a well-earned gift to yourself. Find your moments of joy, be it a massage or a day off. Dissuade any feelings of guilt with positive affirmations of the work you do to care for your loved one. You deserve a little respite.
Most of us are entirely unprepared to embrace the challenges of caregiving. As we become increasingly preoccupied with day-to-day caregiving tasks, we neglect dealing with the profound ways in which caregiving changes our life, our relationships, and ourselves. It often takes another person to help us reflect and process through these experiences and feelings.
“As caregivers, we must learn to take care of our own needs to be at our best for the health and safety of those we are caring for,” said Rosenberry. “Many caregivers find that sharing their situation with others in similar situations is helpful.”
Let a friend help by listening, or join one of Family Service Agency’s caregiver support groups. Talking about what you are going through can bring relief and re-energize you.
For more information about FSA’s caregiver support programs in Santa Barbara, Lompoc, and Santa Maria, visit CaringTogetherSB.org.