When you’re a caregiver, the holidays may be a source of added stress for many reasons. You remember how Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, and all the other special days used to be before your loved one got sick or was injured. You may feel so worn out that preparing for the holidays just doesn’t feel possible. Perhaps your heart simply isn’t in it this year.
What Is Your Caregiving Situation?
Take heart. We have a few holiday tips for caregivers to encourage you. We understand we can’t wave a magic wand and make all your caregiving challenges go away, but we can offer some ideas from two sisters who’ve been there. Mary and I along with our two other sisters Laura and Carol, our cousin Katie, and several part-time helpers, assisted our Dad in caring for Mom at home for five years.
Your situation may be vastly different than ours, especially if you’re the sole caregiver. But we pray within this caregiver holiday tips list, you’ll find a few suggestions to try.
Caregiver Survival Tips for the Holidays
We encourage you to still celebrate the holidays even if it looks different than it used to. Try any of the suggestions that resonate with you.
- Connect with God. Take a few minutes each day to sit quietly with Jesus to pray. Ask Him for strength, encouragement, and joy. Reflect on the beauty and true meaning of the holiday.
- Keep the traditions you can and adjust as needed. Perhaps a walking tour of Christmas lights has been a family favorite, as it was with ours. We bundled up our mom and put her in a wheelchair when walking was no longer an option. Or Dad and Mary, who lived in the same town as my parents, chose a driveable route. Google “Drive-Through Christmas Lights in /yourcity/yourstate/ or /your county/” to find displays close to you.
- Start a new tradition when the old ones aren’t doable. My parents always attended church. However, when it became too much for Mom, they started watching mass online. As her condition progressed, Dad scheduled home visits from lay clergy and chaplain visits from the hospice chaplain.
- Adjust your expectations. Try not to get stuck on how things “used to be.” You will need to adjust your mindset. As an illness progresses, your loved one won’t be able to respond as they used to, but they can still get meaning out of an event. As Mom’s condition worsened, we continued taking her out to lunch. She wasn’t talking much, and we had to feed her, but we just made it a natural part of our lunch. And certain things would filter through to her. For example, whenever Mom saw a baby or little child, she would suddenly light up — smile, laugh, and even say a few words to the little one. Those interactions fed her soul, and ours too.
- For as long as possible, take your loved one to their favorite places. A favorite coffee shop, concert venue, or art museum may offer everyone a welcome change of pace and may reignite their passion. For example, one Christmas as Mom was dealing with the effects from Parkinson-related dementia, Mary took her to the Nutcracker ballet. Our mom sat spellbound through the performance. At the finale, she clapped with all her heart, turned to Mary and said, “Bravo! Bravo! When I grow up, I want to be a ballerina too.” The ballet brought her such joy, and her reaction was a gift to us.
- Try for a simpler celebration. You have enough responsibilities, so be careful not to wear out yourself and your loved one. Scale back to what you can handle. If you are cooking for a gathering, plan and cook ahead. Many meals can be made ahead of time and then rewarmed. Adjust the meal time to work around your loved one’s schedule. Or avoid cooking and order takeout.
- Take advantage of delivery services. Since COVID, many stores now offer online purchasing and delivery to your home. Grocery stores, restaurants, pharmacies, libraries, retail stores, and many more all offer home delivery. It can be a huge time saver and stress reliever for you.
- Ask for help. Family and friends may be more than willing to cook, clean, and shop for you.
- Take advantage of community resources. Google “Area Agencies on Aging” for your area. Or search for the name of your loved one’s condition. For example, you could Google “Cancer Resources Hamilton County Indiana” to see what pops up. Some places offer a free day of care for the loved one so the caregiver can have a break.
- Care for yourself. Do something you love to do. Attend a Christmas concert. Have lunch with a friend. Visit a museum. Take a nap. Get a massage — whatever is speaking to your heart and body at the moment. Arrange for care for your loved one and have a guilt-free wonderful time!
What Are Your Holiday Tips for Caregivers?
What have we forgotten? We’d love to hear your ideas on how caregivers can still celebrate the holidays in the midst of caregiving responsibilites. Please share below. God bless you.