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Information about the author of this post.
tlwe223's picture Terri Weber, MSW, CSW
Elder Care Specialist
College or Department
Work-Life
Phone Number
(859) 218-0457
Email Address
terri.weber@uky.edu

The holidays are a time to share joy and laughter with friends and family, but it can also be bittersweet for many caregivers. The happy memories of the past can collide with the difficulties of the present, creating sadness and disappointment due to unmet expectations. Caring for an older loved one can be stressful and challenging in the best of times but during the holiday season the stresses and challenges can be more overwhelming. 

No wonder caregivers are more frazzled this time of year -  we sleep too little, work too hard, neglect to take good care of ourselves and set unrealistic expectations of what a happy holiday should be from what the media and store advertisements tell us. All of these exaggerated expectations can lead to anxiety, depression and stress. 

How do we avoid this situation, and the cascade of emotions? How do we get thru the holiday season with more joy and less disappointment while creating new, but admittedly different, happy memories?

  1. Recognize that by being a caregiver your holiday celebration will be different from what it was in the past. Prepare your family and friends so they understand the situation in advance. Let them know that the celebrations will have to be scaled down…but not stopped.
  2.  If family or friends ask what can be done to help accept their support. Have a list made up of tasks that others can do easily – pick up groceries, make a meal, bake Christmas cookies, drop off packages at the post office, walk the dog, take your car in for an oil change, or visit with your loved one while you are doing something for you.
  3.  Decide what holiday traditions are most important to you. Simplify. It’s OK to choose just a few - whether it be decorating a tree, baking holiday treats, making homemade gifts, sending holiday cards or decorating different rooms in your house.
  4. Encourage family and friends to visit but keep their visits short. If family and friends seem uncomfortable with the situation and are at a loss as to how to interact with your loved one encourage them to reminisce about past celebrations – remember when discussions work well. Ask them to bring along old photographs to help start conversations.
  5. Make sure there is a space available for your loved one to rest and have some quiet time when you are entertaining family and friends. They may just need time away to rest and regroup.
  6. Things to avoid over the holidays: 
  1. Large groups of people at one time
  2. Loud noise/music or conversation
  3. Drastic changes in surroundings and light – an overabundance of holiday decorations and blinking tree lights can cause confusion
  4. Over indulgence of rich food and drink
  5. Changes in regular routine.
  1. Involve your loved one as much as possible. Help them be part of the preparation and the celebration such as decorating the house, wrapping gifts, preparing food, decorating cookies, deciding on what gifts family and friends receive and setting the table.
  2. Build on past traditions with new simpler ones. Redefine your definition of success - making the most of what really matters to you rather than what you think is expected of you. 

Throughout the holiday season (as well as year-round) remember to be good to yourself. As a caregiver you are doing a hard job and deserve support, understanding and quality time for yourself to keep you emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually balanced. As always, remember that UK Elder Care and Work+Life Connections are here to help you. 

Have a happy and safe holiday season!

Terri Weber, UK Elder Care Coordinator