Just turn on the radio during the holiday season and you are bound to hear it, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!”
However, for many unpaid family caregivers, this quickly becomes the most stressful time of the year.
According to a Holiday Caregiving AARP survey, seven in ten caregivers say it is emotionally stressful to care for their loved ones during the holiday season.
Preparing for holiday visitors, coordinating travel plans, coping with criticism from difficult family members and trying to manage overstimulation can all lead to feelings of exhaustion, frustration and resentment.
We’ve complied challenges commonly faced by caregivers along with tips to navigate these stressors while still enjoying the holiday.
You bring the kids to school each morning and pick them up in the afternoon, you work a full-time job and you provide care to your loved one. You are constantly of service to others yet get little thanks or time to yourself. Now you’ve added shopping, hosting a dinner and holiday preparations to the list. All your responsibilities are becoming overwhelming and everything feels like a priority.
Tip: Don’t be afraid to delegate tasks and accept help when possible. If a family member offers to cook dinner or run an errand for you, say yes. Be gentle with yourself and remember that caregiving is a job itself. No one can do everything, let go of the idea of perfection and strive to fit in a few moments a day to do something good for yourself.
Feelings of sadness
The holidays are a sentimental time of year. Thinking back on holiday memories with your loved before dementia set can evoke feelings of sadness.
Tip: No one plans on their loved one developing Alzheimer’s disease. It’s okay and normal to feel emotional. Take this time to create new traditions and make new memories. Things may not be the same, but they can still be beautiful. Instead of focusing on what was, start to rethink what can be and create a different Christmas or holiday celebration for you and your family knowing that your worlds have changed. It’s not about the gifts, but more about focusing on meaningful moments like making cookies together. If you begin to feel overrun by sadness and negative feelings, you should speak to a doctor or mental health professional. If you are in immediate danger, call 911 or 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.
Dealing with critical family members
Everyone has their own individual way of dealing with a dementia diagnosis and all the changes that come with dementia, and unfortunately, it’s not always positive. A difficult family member can increase an already stressful time. Keep in mind, while you cannot control someone’s behavior, you can control your response or reaction. Here are some other helpful things to keep in mind.
Tip: Choose company carefully. Keeping peace for you and your loved one is the top priority. Family members or friends who consistently exhibit toxic behaviors are not likely to have a change of heart during this time of year. Consider creating a small gathering with supportive, understanding and kind people as this will yield a much better outcome. If you decide to attend a gathering where a difficult family member will be in attendance, set realistic expectations in advance and open your heart and mind to how this may be affecting that family member. Watching dementia take its toll on a loved one is not easy. It can bring feelings of powerlessness and result in actions and comments that are less than kind. Try to be gentle to yourself and others.
This holiday season focus on being thankful for the things that matter most and try to create new memories that you can hold dear. Remove that “perfect holiday” expectation. Let go of what was and find your new now. Laugh, smile, enjoy the company of your loved ones.
If you are feeling increasingly stressed, consider contacting our Caregiver Support Line at 1-800-338-0199 or contact your local care navigator. All caregivers need a break, and our may be just what you need.