Caregivers are stretched to the max during the
majority of the year, but during the holiday season,
this stress can take on an entirely different meaning.
Expectations and Traditions
Caregivers must first and foremost be realistic. Our
culture tends to paint a perfect holiday picture of
families gathered around a fireplace, drinking eggnog
and laughing happily. That happens, of course, but it
doesn’t show the caregiver in the background frantically
trying to keep it all together and meet each
generation’s expectations of holiday bliss.
Caregivers must acknowledge that being realistic will
save a lot of undo stress. If a loved one needs extra
attention, especially with the holidays, whether it be
visits, trips out and about, or even just family party
hopping, it can be exhausting for caregiver and loved
Many times, large gatherings can be overwhelming for a
loved one, so a caregiver may suggest family members
visit on an individual basis, spending quieter quality
time together. This is especially true for loved ones
Make a list of traditions, and prioritize which ones can
realistically be held onto and which ones perhaps must
be adapted or eliminated. It’s not failure if some get
skipped, or changed to accommodate a family’s new needs
and dynamics. Every new holiday will bring with it new
memories of times with loved ones, regardless of the
where’s and how’s.
Guilt is something a caregiver struggles with over the
holidays, and usually ties into the level of care they
are providing. It’s time consuming to be aware and
provide for someone else’s needs, as well as make time
for visiting family members, travel they must do, etc.
Almost all caregiving advice articles mention the
importance of asking for help. Yes, it’s important to do
year-round; but during the holidays, even more so.
One part of getting help is making sure the caregiver
gets enough sleep, exercise and good nutrition. It’s
difficult to take care of others when not taking care of
yourself first. Cliché, yes, but true nonetheless.
The holiday season is a time of joy and family, and a
loved one will appreciate that no matter how it’s
celebrated or if things may change. Keeping traditions
is important, but a caregiver must realize new
traditions can begin at any time.
Prepare Others for Changes
Managing expectations and opening up the door for
helpful family starts with a “pep” talk. If the extended
family is unaware of the extra burden and stress a
caregiver is handling, they are unable to be of help.
It’s easy for children and grandchildren to swoop in as
usual, expecting Mom’s best ham on the table, and not
realize the effort it took to put it there.
A few small changes can make holiday caregiving easier:
1) Host a potluck meal.
2) Explain a loved one’s
circumstances or special needs to guests beforehand.
3) Name tags may be
4) Prioritize your
5) Keep visits shorter.
6) Find creative ways to
make gift giving less of a hassle.
Preparing the loved one with special needs for the
holiday festivities can be as important as preparing the
rest of the family. If someone has problems around
sundown, celebrate earlier in the day and have them in a
safe, comfortable place later on. Play familiar music
and serve familiar foods that will not make them feel
anxious or confused. Showing pictures of those coming to
visit also will help ease any feeling of confusion and
embarrassment if they can’t remember names and familial
The balancing act can be tricky for a caregiver, but
with a little prep and a lot of patience, the holidays
can be a fun time, giving a family the opportunity to
make a lot of new memories to last a lifetime. Sometimes
the way it’s “always been done” is not the way it
“needs” to be done.
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