Even if youíre not a caregiver, the threat of the holidays being
right around the corner strikes instant fear, terror and major
stress into the hearts of almost everyone. However, there is hope
for caregivers to enjoy the holiday season and still make it a
special time for their loved one as well. The key is to pace
yourself, as well as to help your loved one do the same, so that
neither of you will feel completely drained, depressed or
overwhelmed, especially during such a special time of year. Here are
some suggestions that may help you both survive the holidays:
Organize Your Time
Try not to schedule
too many social events, one right after another. It's better to miss
out on a few holiday events than to end up with yourself or a loved
getting too exhausted, which could lead to health problems for both
of you. Remember, when it comes to holiday events, it's the quality,
not the quantity, that counts.
Make sure that your
loved one gets a chance to have some quiet time away from all the
noise, stress, and chaos that is a natural part of the holidays.
Itís best to spend some quiet time together, so that you both get a
chance to unwind from recent events.
If you end up
traveling away from home for the holidays, make sure to begin
packing way in advance so that youíll have everything needed for the
person youíre caring for, as well as for yourself. Make lists and
check them often prior to leaving home. Remember to have any refills
on medications done early. If youíre traveling by car, remember to
break up the car trip with a stopover at a park or at a favorite
restaurant so that your loved one can get some fresh air and feel
Watch out for holiday
burnout in the person youíre caring for, by taking note of unusual
irritability, tiredness, or even boisterousness, depending upon
their condition. Also, be aware of possible holiday burnout in
At the end of the
holidays, you may notice some post-holiday blues creeping into the
mood of your loved one. Itís best to try and get them back into
their regular, daily routines as quickly as possible, but do it
gradually so that itís not too much of a shock.
Patience is always required as a
caregiver, but even more patience is required during the holidays,
and in order to keep yourself from stressing out too much or
becoming too exhausted, itís important to try and keep your own,
personal holiday schedule under control. This doesnít mean to
deprive yourself of social events that youíd like to attend for
yourself, but know what your limits are, know that itís okay to
reduce your holiday commitments down to only a few, and donít feel
guilty about telling someone ďnoĒ when asked to participate in yet
another holiday function.
Shop online whenever
possible. A growing number of major retailers have cyberspace shops
offering a variety of goods that can be purchased without ever
leaving your home.
Catalog shopping is
another option if you don't want to spend hours fighting the crowds
at the mall.
Buy the same gift for
as many people as possible on your list. If you find a gift book
that would be perfect for all of your favorite friends, pick up a
half-dozen copies. You donít always have to get everyone you know
Use your shopping
time as efficiently as you can, by creating and carrying a
business-card sized list of gift ideas in your wallet, along with a
list of gifts you've already gotten. These lists will help you from
spending so much money, and will also help you not buy so many
Preparing Your Loved One
Although itís the
holiday season, try to maintain the daily routine
you and your loved one are used to
Even before an
official gathering, continually speak about the people who will be
coming to visit, or who youíll be
visiting, so that the person youíre caring for will begin
to start looking forward to some social time.
Play seasonal music
around the house, and serve their favorite, seasonal food.
Let the person observe
but donít try to force them into any activity beyond their cognitive
capacity. Have them do a repetitive task, such as folding napkins or
cracking nuts, that will help keep them calm.
If itís possible,
have them help bake cookies, or decorate the tree. If they donít
want to, let them stay as an observer.
Prior to the onset of
any behavioral problems during a holiday gathering, prepare
distractions such as a family album to draw the person's attention
away from their problem.
Itís also a good idea
to prepare your visitors for how your loved one may react during the
gathering, and what to expect from their condition. This way, it
wonít be shock if relatives and friends havenít seen them for a
Make sure to prepare
friends and relatives regarding the condition of your loved one,
especially if they havenít seen them in quite a while. The behavior
or condition of the person youíre caring for may come as quite a
shock, so itís best that everyone is informed ahead of time so that
everyone is at ease and relaxed during a holiday visit.
Donít focus on how the holidays
ďusedĒ to be, but focus instead on what a wonderful gift it is to
have your loved one with you for yet another holiday season. The
top-two priorities for you during this time of year is maintaining
health and happiness, for the person you care for and for yourself
as well. If you can, go ahead and by yourself a gift, something
youíve had your eye on for quite a while. Try to take time off from
other obligations and responsibilities in order to re-energize
during this season.
Have smaller gatherings; this will
help reduce the noise and stress level for you both. Itís okay to
set limits, and make sure that everyone in the family, as well as
friends, understand what you need as a caregiver during this
time. Donít be afraid to ask for help, and to delegate holiday tasks
among family and friends. Donít spread yourself too thin by
volunteering to help others. Itís okay to say no, and when you do,
make it short and simple, and donít apologize; it should be
abundantly clear as to why you canít do something, until you
actually have extra time on your hands (and when is that really
going to happen?). Hopefully, family and friends will want to know
what you want or need for the holidays for yourself. Definitely put
respite at the top of your list as what youíd like to receive the
|Gifts For You
A day at the spa - a day of
massages, facials, manicures and pedicures would be a perfect gift.
Caregivers are often so busy meeting everyone else's needs that they
overlook their own needs. A service that is totally self-indulgent
is a rarity to someone who normally thinks of others first.
Gift card for movie rentals
- this is a great way for you to catch up on some of the movies you
may have missed at the theaters. Ask for some microwave popcorn,
traditional movie candies, and may be even a new set of pajamas to
go along with the gift card, all perfect for upholding the true
tradition of home theater viewing.
Gift certificate for a
clothing boutique - the wardrobe of a caregiver generally consists
of wash and wear clothing (for obvious reasons), so having the
opportunity to shop for an outfit that is something other than
cotton is a fun splurge.
Coupon good for an entire
day off from caregiving duties - do anything you want to do, and
donít necessarily have the day planned and structured for you, so
you can experience some real freedom.
Gift certificate for a
bookstore or online bookseller - this is a great gift because a new
title by your favorite author can always take you to another place
when you need to get away.
Gift certificate to your
favorite music/movie store - being able to get the music you love or
continuing to build your DVD or video tape library can be something
A coupon good for a night
out on the town, including a gift certificate to a favorite
restaurant, along with someone to watch your loved one could add up
to a wonderful evening.
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