For most people the holiday season is a wonderful time to celebrate with family and friends. Yet too often, it is also the season of stress and hardship for senior caregivers. If you are caring for an aging parent or relative, the emotional toll of caregiving is year-round – but stress levels tend to peak during the holiday season. Many seniors, especially those with dementia, have a tough time mustering up their holiday cheer. Tending to these emotions can be challenging, not to mention it can be hard to keep up with old holiday traditions or find new ways to celebrate with your elderly loved one while dealing with their health issues.
If the stress of caregiving is left ignored, it can take a toll on your health and well-being. Managing your own stress levels is just as important as making sure your senior loved one is well taken care of. Learn to spot the common signs of caregiver stress:
- Anxiety and depression
- Social withdrawal; not doing leisure activities as much
- Exhaustion; feeling tired constantly
- Difficulty sleeping
- Irritability and moodiness
- Trouble concentrating
- New or worsening health problems
- Feeling resentful or angry
Watch for these warning signs of caregiver stress and take immediate action when you recognize the problem. If you get to the point when your life revolves around caregiving and you are neglecting your own needs or feeling helpless, then caregiving is no longer a healthy option for you or your senior loved one.
1. Plan Ahead
Before the holiday season approaches, have a conversation with your family and friends about your senior loved one’s condition. Be realistic about what your loved one is able to do and clearly communicate the realities of your caregiving situation so you can adjust their holiday expectations in advance. For example, observing all of your family’s holiday traditions may be too difficult, so acknowledge that you may have to break old traditions and create new ones.
Remember to organize. Write a to-do list for all of your holiday errands. As you prepare to do your holiday shopping, make a list of gift ideas beforehand so you don’t have to spend the whole day at the mall fighting busy crowds.
2. Adapt to Your Senior Loved One’s Needs
Look for ways to create a new holiday tradition or memory with your senior loved one. There are senior-friendly activities that they could easily participate in such as window shopping at the mall or visiting their old friends. Too much change in environment or routine can be confusing or troublesome for your loved one, so avoid busy places and unfamiliar surroundings.
If large family events are too overwhelming for your loved one, suggest smaller gatherings over a few days or encourage family and friends to visit your home instead to spend individual time with your loved one.
3. Take Care of Yourself
Taking good care of yourself enables you to take better care of your senior loved one.
- Exercise regularly. If can’t keep up with regular workouts, try to add exercise into your routine in other ways, such as by walking or using the stairs.
- Maintain a proper diet and avoid overindulging in sugar or alcohol during the holidays.
- Make time for doing things that you love, such as visiting with friends, reading or listening to music. Get out of the house and take a break.
- Treat yourself to something special like a massage or manicure. Small luxuries go a long way to lifting your spirits.
- Get enough restful sleep. When you get enough sleep, your mood and energy will improve and so will your ability to handle stress.
4. Enlist Help
Do you need someone to stay with your loved one for a day or two, so you can have a break? Do you need help with errands or taking them to appointments? If you feel overwhelmed about your caregiving responsibilities, don’t be afraid to let your family know. Other family members or friends may be able to support you with keeping your senior loved one company, or you may want to hire a professional caregiver to help.
Care At Home has a team of experienced caregivers who are able to provide personalized in-home assistance to meet the needs of your loved ones. To learn more about our services, contact us for a free consultation today.