The holidays can be a stressful time for everyone. But it can be especially stressful for caregivers who are responsible for taking care of parents that require 24/7 assistance. Taking care of mom and/or dad is stressful enough, but adding the stress of the holidays can make it even tougher. As a result, I wanted to take this opportunity to share my top 3 caregiver tips during the holiday season. Thanksgiving will be here in a couple weeks, then Christmas and New Years. We hope everyone has a safe and prosperous Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Years, and we hope you enjoy these helpful tips.
Caregiver Tips #1: Don’t Talk About Politics
My number one tip is do not talk politics — just don’t. Even if you’re all a member of the same political party, it’s not a good idea. This is especially important if your loved ones have dementia, Alzheimers, or anything like that. Talking about politics and polarizing issues will likely just get them upset, and you don’t want to do that.
Instead, encourage your family members to talk about good times and past events that your loved one remembers. This will help to create a sense of nostalgia and provide comfort for them. Talking about polarizing issues will make them feel isolated, and they’re isolated enough given their condition. So try to keep them engaged in the conversation by talking about past events that trigger happy thoughts for them.
For example, my dad and I liked to talk about eating catfish at the Sardis Dam in Mississippi. My dad was originally from Mississippi and there was a place there called the Sardis Dam, right outside Batesville, Mississippi. We would talk about how much we loved going there and eating fried catfish, and he would perk up and really engage in the conversation. This was much more productive than talking about contentious topics or thoughts that could cause stress for him or myself.
Caregiver Tips #2: Don’t Worry About Gifts
We live in a society that’s all about “buy, buy, buy.” But this holiday season, don’t worry about that. You don’t have to go buy a mountain of gifts for everyone, which is going to put stress on yourself and your bank account.
Tell your family and friends that you’d rather spend quality time with them this year instead of worrying about all the gifts. Tell them to come by your place, have a cup of hot chocolate or whatever it may be, and just sit and chat. That way there’s no stress, no politics — just fruitful and happy conversation. By eliminating the stress of gifting, your holidays will be much more enjoyable for you and your family.
Caregiver Tips #3: Don’t Worry About Being Fancy
The holidays are certainly a time when we tend to overeat. We feel pressure to prepare lots of elaborate meals with way more food than we’ll ever eat. And all that cooking results in lots of cleaning that you feel compelled to do prior to your friends and family arriving at your home.
Don’t put that extra stress on yourself this year. You’re stressed enough as a caretaker, managing the daily activities for dad and/or mom — bathing, toileting, all those things. The last thing you need is to be stressed about your house being clean enough or having to prepare enough food for all your guests.
Instead of using the fine china this year (which you’ll have to clean), use paper plates to make things easier on yourself. Also, don’t try to make the meals so elaborate and ask for help. Ask your family members to bring a dish or two so that you’re not responsible for preparing the entire meal.
Additionally, don’t worry about having your house so clean for guests. Their house probably isn’t that clean either! If the weather is nice, it’s a good idea to eat outdoors and reduce the traffic in your house. Another good idea is to prevent much of this stress altogether and have everyone go eat a restaurant. Either way, don’t burden yourself with days of cooking and cleaning during the holiday season.
The Reason for the Season
I hope you’ve enjoyed these caregiver tips and that you’re able use them to make your holiday season stress-free and merry. We want to ensure that you and your family don’t forget the reason. We celebrate Thanksgiving to remember how grateful we should be of our family and friends. We celebrate Christmas to remember the birth of Jesus Christ, and New Years means a new start.
Try to make time for yourself during this holiday season. Take on less responsibility, and do something for yourself as a caregiver. If possible, have someone watch your loved one while you take some time to recharge your batteries. Go get a haircut, go to a movie, the bookstore — whatever you enjoy. And don’t forget to ask for help from your family members during the holiday season. You definitely could use it!
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