Being a caregiving is hard and exhausting all through the year. Add in the stress of the holidays and it can feel overwhelming. So here are a few ideas to make it all a little bit easier to manage.
1. Let go of perfection
We all want that Hallmark perfect holiday. Presents that everyone will adore wrapped beautifully under a tree which looks like Martha Stuart herself decorated it. Family and friends filling our house and our hearts with laughter and love while enjoying a meal we worked for hours to prepare. That Christmas ideal is difficult to pull off even for people who aren't taking care of a loved one. As a caregiver we have limited time, resources, and energy. So, it's okay if the presents are bought online and put in gift bags. It's okay if the tree is decorated a little haphazardly. It's okay if the meal is simple or (gasp) takeout. Give yourself permission to have an O.K. Christmas instead of struggling to reach an idea of perfection. Afterall, finding meaning and joy with the people with love is what is truly perfect during the holidays.
2. Focus on what is most meaningful
If your loved one's health and abilities limit or make it hard to do everything, do only what matters most to you and your family. Are there cherished items or decorations that evoke the holidays that it just wouldn't be the same without? Would it be enough to have a special tablecloth passed down from Grandma, the nativity or menorah, some poinsettias, and candles instead of putting up all the decorations? Would going to one religious service be enough instead of trying to go to them all? Just like letting perfection go, give yourself the permission to do "enough" to make it meaningful and don't worry about the rest.
3. It's OK to say NO
This is a hard one for caregivers. We like being the person everyone can depend on and hate feeling like we are letting someone down. However, the holidays bring all sorts of social obligations, and we truly can't do it all. The company holiday party, school plays and concerts, dinners, parties, cookie exchanges, card exchanges, gift exchanges... and a partridge in a pear tree. You are allowed to say, "I'm sorry I can't make it", "I can't fit that in my schedule right now", or a simple "NO" without explanation or guilt.
4. Start new traditions
If you and your loved ones can't do what you've always done in the past, then you can find new ways or new things to do together. Does your loved one have trouble walking or standing? Ok, so you might not be able to go to the town parade or tree lighting. Why don't you watch one on TV or go driving around town looking at decorations? Can't leave the house to attend a family gathering? Video chat with those there so you still feel like a part of the get together. Watch a new holiday movie, listen to a holiday audiobook, look through old photo albums or watch old home videos, hold a holiday brunch instead of dinner. Get creative and focus on what you can do together instead of what you can not. And along the way you might be surprised that the new ends up being better than the old.
5. Remember to take care of yourself and ask for help
Alright, technically these are two seperate items but they are so intertwined I didn't want to split them. We as caregivers don't like to admit our limitations and despise the idea that we can't do it all. But there is a reason the airlines remind us to put on our own oxygen mask first before helping our neighbor in case of a crash. If we are unconscious, we are no use to anyone else. So, make sure you are getting good sleep as much as you can. eating healthy and nutritious meals, taking time to relax and decompress, and taking to people who support you like a friend or a therapist. Spend some time outdoors and exercising, even if it is doing both in a ten-minute break walking to the mailbox to get the mail. Most importantly, if you can't seem to get it all done yourself, you don't have to do it all alone. Do you have a friend that can help you run small errands, come over and help you with laundry or cleaning, shovel the snow off the sidewalk, or stay with your loved one for an hour while you do something for yourself? If you do, ask them if they would. If you don't and you have the resources, hire someone to clean the house or hire an aide for a respite break.
Remember that this time with your loved one is precious. Even if this holiday season isn’t like the holidays of the past, take time to savor what it is. If you can shift your expectations and go with the flow, then you will make new meaningful memories you can cherish for many holidays to come.
Absolute Best Care Home Solutions wishes you the merriest and brightest of holidays!
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