The holiday season is a busy time of year filled with food, family and fun. But when you’re also caring for an aging loved one, the added responsibility of caregiving during the holidays can push your stress level to the breaking point. With all the shopping, decorating and baking that you feel obligated to do, the onset of caregiver fatigue can quickly place the health and wellbeing of the two of you at risk. To help ensure that doesn’t happen, here are some great ways to juggle caregiving during the holidays.
Signs of Caregiver Fatigue
These are some of the classic signs of caregiver fatigue, including during the holidays:
- Feeling tired and run down all the time
- Rapid weight gain or loss
- Taking longer to recover from illnesses
- Trouble sleeping
- Being irritable
- Anxiety and depression
- Substance abuse
- Lack-of-interest in activities once enjoyed
When you start experiencing these signs during the holidays, if you don’t start taking care of yourself it could lead to even more serious problems.
Staying Recharged and Refreshed
On the other hand, keeping your mind and body refreshed while caregiving during the holidays is possible when using this approach:
Set Realistic Goals
There’s only one of you, so sit down and prioritize the caregiving duties that your loved one needs. Focus on more essential tasks, like meals, medication reminders or getting them to the doctor, and let chores like housecleaning and laundry wait until another day. In your own home, don’t feel pressured into competing with others when it comes to holiday decorations or entertaining. It’s O.K. to put off some of those traditions until next year. Instead, pace yourself and savor small victories – like helping your senior wrap some gifts or bake cookies.
Make Time for Yourself
You’re not going to be any good to your care recipient or kids if you get burned out. Allocate enough time every day to exercise, get plenty of sleep and to eat healthy meals. Don’t abuse alcohol or drugs and join a caregiver support group if you feel like it might help. Spend plenty of quality time with your kids and spouse by baking cookies with them, going ice skating, or just watching some old holiday movies together with a bowl of popcorn.
Learn to Say “No”
When you’re starting to feel overwhelmed, just say “no”. Whether you’re being asked to bring a dessert to a holiday school program, or host a family gathering, the demands can quickly add up and leave you feeling exhausted. Give yourself permission to say “no” without feeling guilty. Be honest and explain to others that you’re caring for an aging loved one right now and that your schedule is full. Reasonable people will totally understand.
Ask for Help
Family caregivers oftentimes feel like they can’t ask for help. That’s not only unhealthy any time of year, but notably around the holidays. When you’re starting to feel stressed out, consider seeking temporary assistance from these sources:
- Family members
- Close friends or neighbors
- Community or church volunteers
- Senior transportation services
- Meal services
- Adult daycare centers