It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Or, the radio says it is. However, if you are a caregiver, you may not be feeling quite so wonderful or joyful.
With most Holiday traditions being wrapped around your family, which includes your aging loved one, making those events go smoothly for everyone can become a very real burden. Primary caregivers, three-quarters of whom are women, spend an average of 18 hours a week providing care. One in five spends over 40 hours a week. This kind of commitment takes its toll on families and personal lives. When you couple that with the fact that many still work outside of the home, and then are also responsible to make sure that the Holidays go off without a hitch, one can begin to easily see how this time of year may not be so wonderful.
There are ways to de-stress the chaos, and bring order and enjoyment back into your family celebrations.
1) Focus on the essentials – remember that there are simply some things that are not necessary, and then some that are. This may be the year that those things that may be time- consuming need to be shelved right now.
2) Recognize your own personal limitations. You aren’t superhuman.
3) Delegate, delegate, delegate! Pass off some of the things on your list to other family members.
4) Communicate with other family members openly and honestly about your needs, and that the Holiday Meal is not the time or place to discuss how you are caring for their loved one.
5) If possible, break the day with a walk outside after your meal. The fresh air does much to awaken your body, and gives you a bit of an energy boost.
Besides reducing your own stress, keeping things low key is also less disruptive for your loved one, especially if he or she has dementia. Unaccustomed activities often provoke agitation or disorientation in this setting. Elders with dementia do best if their regular routine is preserved as much as possible. Avoid large noisy gatherings and encourage visiting family members to share quiet time in small groups with your loved one.
Keeping things simple and low key, while perhaps not the norm, may be exactly what you, and your loved one needs this year.