Monthly Archives: November 2015

Caregiver tips for the Holiday Season

As caregivers, we give and give and give, and during the holidays we give even more! All that giving can add up to high stress levels or even full-on burnout that creeps up on you before you know it. Managing care for someone who has a cognitive impairment may leave caregivers feeling that they will not be able to participate as fully as they would like in family gatherings. Already feeling overwhelmed with caregiving tasks, stressed-out caregivers may view traditional holiday preparations as more of a drain of precious energy than a joy. Accept your limits and be willing to lay down some boundaries about what you can and can’t take on this time of year along with your other responsibilities, and it will make the holidays a little easier
Here are some tips that might help:
Although it is understandable to have reservations about discussing a loved one’s impairments, honest communication about the realities of the caregiving situation offers others the opportunity to respond with assistance. Sharing the truths of your situation may help reduce some of the feelings of isolation and lack of appreciation common in caregivers. Make sure to let others know what to expect so you’re all on the same page.
Don’t expect the person with cognitive impairment to be able to adapt to all situations; you may need to adapt the environment to their needs.
Make a point of setting some time aside this holiday season to enjoy the person you care for in a relaxed, one-on-one context. The best activities are those which take advantage of long-term memory—usually less impaired in people with dementia. Try looking through family photo albums or unpacking holiday decorations, which may stimulate memories.
Perfection is not the goal of the holidays — joy is! Cramming more into your already crazy schedule can push you over the edge, so consider what is really doable before you commit. Remember that you’ll be happier if you can go with the flow and expect the inevitable delay, crisis or disappointment. Above all, making good memories with your loved ones is especially valuable at this time.
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.
Since you are providing care for a loved one you deserve a little happiness and joy during the holidays as well. No one can begrudge you this and it is yours for the taking. Find your moments of joy. If you start feeling guilty, give yourself a some positive affirmations of how hard you work out of love and you deserve a little respite. You have many things you have to get done, but do some things you love, as well. Work on a personal project you’ve been ‘meaning to get to’, go outside and enjoy the beauty of winter, play a game with the grandkids or work a few puzzles. Whatever you do, keep your mind busy and don’t keep to yourself too much.
When we are feeling stressed out and overwhelmed, most of us give up exercise and take short cuts with meals. Both can leave you feeling more worn out. Try to stick to a well-balanced diet, even if it means hitting fast food restaurants for their healthiest salads. Remind yourself that even a 20-minute walk around the neighborhood or on your treadmill can help you beat anxiety.
Talk with other caregivers, joining a support group can do this, which bring together people facing similar issues, whether that’s illness, relationship problems or major life changes. Support groups also come in a variety of formats, including in person, on the Internet or by telephone. They may be led by professional facilitators such as a nurse, social worker or psychologist or by group members. It can be helpful just getting to talk with other people who are in the same situation. Members of a support group usually share their personal experiences and offer one another emotional comfort and moral support. They may also offer practical advice and tips to help you cope with your situation. Online support groups could include email lists, newsgroups, chat rooms, blogs and social networking sites, such as Facebook. If you are attending one in person plan to attend a few support group meetings to see how you fit in. If the support group makes you uncomfortable or you don’t find it useful, try another one. Remember that even a support group you like can change over time as participants come and go. Periodically evaluate the support group to make sure it continues to meet your needs.