By: Whitney Morrow
Carter County Extension Agent
Providing care for someone can be both rewarding and challenging.
However, the responsibilities and obligations that come with the holidays can create added stress. The following suggestions may help make the holidays easier on you, the person you are caring for and your extended family and friends.
- Make a plan. Planning includes little things like shopping for holiday presents and food well before the actual holiday to spread out time, money and stress and booking homecare or respite if needed with an agency in advance to ensure you have help.
- Prepare your visitors. Bring the realities of caregiving to the attention of your guests and uninvolved family members who may not know a person’s condition has changed. You may do this in a holiday greeting or by writing a brief note describing the person’s needs. Honest communication about the realities of the caregiving situation allows people to react, adjust and respond. Let people know in advance about the need to adapt traditional roles and holiday experiences. For example, it may be less stressful for the person for whom you are caring to spend the holidays in their home, where they are comfortable, rather than traveling to another location or a new location.
- Adapt the environment and traditions as needed. Depending on a person’s ability, large crowds, background noise, bright lights, etc. may be stressful. Multiple conversations may be challenging for someone with a hearing impairment or dementia, for example. Find quiet spaces and places for people to sit and visit. To help avoid added anxiety, assess ways to adapt the holiday experience (time spent away from home, number of people, noise levels, food due to dietary restrictions, less time-intense festivities, simplified traditions, etc.), which may include changing some holiday traditions and gatherings.
- Make an effort to get help. Sharing the truth about the caregiving situation, including your stress and energy levels, can help reduce the risk of feeling stressed and isolated as a caregiver. Honest communication helps others understand what you need. Being forthcoming and asking for help can also give others a greater appreciation for what you do. The holidays are often a busy time. Give someone permission to run errands for you, such as picking up groceries or Christmas cards, or have them stay with your loved one so you can run errands. Share your wish list of needs. In addition to respite, for example, you may need help with home repairs. Most people will be happy to lend you a helping hand if you ask.
- Make sure you schedule some time for yourself. Do something you enjoy while giving yourself a break from caring for others and preparing for the holidays. Doing something as simple as going for a walk, chatting with a friend or having a cup of coffee can greatly improve your mood.
For more information on caregiving or holiday survival tips, contact the Carter County Cooperative Extension Service.
Source: Amy Kostelic, UK extension specialist in family life
Educational programs of the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of economic or social status and will not discriminate on the basis of race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, creed, religion, political belief, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, pregnancy, marital status, genetic information, age, veteran status, or physical or mental disability.