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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

‘Tis the season of joy and celebration. But for many caregivers, ‘tis the season of increased stress and overwhelming challenge. Aside from the day-to-day responsibilities of work, family and caregiving, there are the added demands of the holiday. Many caregivers they just want the “whole thing to be done with.”

How do we get through the holiday season with more joy and less disappointment while creating new, but admittedly different, happy memories?

7 Tips for Caregivers During the Holiday Season

  1. Understand things will be different this year: Keeping expectations realistic will save you a lot of undue stress. Let your family and friends know that celebrations and traditions will be scaled down…but not stopped. We often feel obligated to carry on holiday traditions, but it should not be seen as a failure if some of those traditions get skipped to accommodate your loved one’s newer needs and abilities. You are now a caregiver and your time and energy caring for your loved one takes precedence.
  2. Simplify your holiday activities: Prioritize those holiday activities that hold the deepest meaning to you and your loved one – decorating the tree, watching holiday movies, baking, etc. Focus on things that will bring you the most happiness and joy. Remember, the holiday doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Include your loved one as much as they are able in holiday preparations, but if they don’t want to participate let them sit back and observe…that’s okay too.
  3. Accept support: If family and friends ask if they can help — say yes. Have a list prepared of helpful tasks that others can do easily — pick up groceries, make a meal, walk the dog, or sit and visit with your loved one while you are busy or simply want some quiet time to yourself. Don’t be shy in asking friends and family for help if you don’t hear from them.
  4. Stick to a schedule: Hustle and bustle is part of the holiday season, but familiarity and routine are important for your older loved one’s comfort and well-being.  Encourage family and friends to visit, but keep the visits short.
  5. Starting a conversation: Ask guests to bring old photos to help start conversations.  Everyone loves telling stories of their past. If your loved one lives with dementia, help your guests understand the needs and limitations of your loved one, and coach your guests on how to interact. Teach them to use the person’s name and maintain eye contact, communicate clearly, speak calmly and introduce themselves versus relying on your loved one to recall that person. Try to avoid phrases like, “Don’t you remember?” instead lead with, “I remember when…..” Don’t correct them if they happen to remember a story differently than you; simply change the subject. Remember, they are doing the best they can.  
  6. Reserve a quiet space for your older loved one: An older loved one’s threshold for noise, excitement and confusion is much lower than ours. They may need to rest and have some quiet time while you are entertaining. Make sure there is a designated space for them to retreat to when it gets overwhelming. Explain this to your guests and ask them to honor it.
  7. Caring for Yourself: It’s easy to lose sight of yourself this time of year. With all you have to do, it is easy to see why you could become exhausted and overwhelmed. Taking time for yourself (as impossible as that may seem) may sound selfish, but maintaining your physical, emotional and mental health is not. Here are a few ideas for self-care basics during the holiday season:
    1. Physical health essential:
      1. Schedule time for some exercise; a walk, an on-line yoga class, etc.
      2. Maintain a bedtime routine; it can help ensure a good night’s rest
      3. Balance holiday foods with healthy eating
    2. Take time for your emotional health:
      1. Build a meditation practice
      2. Put your thoughts into words in a journal
      3. Do something you enjoy - work on a hobby or listen to your favorite music
    3. Practice saying ‘no’ to obligations that aren’t a priority.
    4. Express your gratitude by focusing on what you have rather than on what you don’t.
    5. Respect your budget – spending more now, only means you will pay more later.

Check out the UK Your Well-Being Matters link. Here you will find information from our UK Work-Life and Health & Wellness specialists on a variety of wellness topics.

The holidays are a time for celebration and there is no right or wrong way to celebrate. Focus on what matters most to you and your loved one. And don’t forget to take time for yourself — you deserve it. 

Have a healthy and happy holiday season,

Terri