Caregiving at Christmas
December 09, 2019
Submitted by Bedford At Home
Being a caregiver is a difficult task, no matter the time of year. However, the difficulty of being the sole caregiver for another person can be elevated especially during the holiday season.
Being a primary caregiver is a 24/7 hour, seven day a week job and with all of the responsibilities that accompany caregiving who has time to decorate a Christmas tree? Who is going to bake the cookies and plan Christmas dinner? Who is going to do the Christmas shopping plus wrap all the presents? Being a caregiver shouldn’t mean that you miss out on the holiday traditions that are meaningful to you and Bedford at Home is here to help you get the most out of your holiday season and enjoy making precious memories with your loved ones. Here are some ways you can recognize and reduce the stress of caregiving during the Holiday Season.
Be Aware of Possible Burnout
Caregiver burnout can happen at any time, but is particularly common at Christmastime. The holiday season is a time of joy—a time to partake of family traditions, share memories with old friends, and celebrate the beginning of a New Year. Christmas and the holidays produce high levels of emotional stress. Isolation, depression, and guilt can lead to a caregiver’s breakdown. Here are some signs that you may be experiencing caregiver burnout:
Why Holidays Mean Extra Stress
- Withdrawal from friends, family and other loved ones.
- Loss of interest in activities or events you previously enjoyed.
- Changes is mood.
- Feeling irritable, hopeless, and helpless.
- Changes in appetite, weight, or both.
- Changes in sleep patterns.
- Getting sick more often
- Feelings of wanting to hurt yourself or the person you are caring for.
- Emotional and physical exhaustion.
Only the person who has walked in a caregiver’s shoes for months at a time can know what the job of a caregiver is like. The caregiver that has no outside help and no support system is a sure candidate for burnout. Any one of the most common caregiver duties can weigh a person down both mentally and physically:
- Doctor appointments
- Transportation issues
- Therapy schedules
- Elder care legal matters
- Housekeeping chores
- Business duties
- Constant personal help and attention to the ailing elderly family member.
Try managing three or four of these duties on any given day. Add the needs of a spouse and young children. Add a paying job that the caregiver needs to pay bills and help support her family. It’s easy to see how caregivers can feel overwhelmed and overworked.
How Can I Reduce the Burnout and Stress for the Caregiver in My Life?
A primary caregiver is usually too caught up in her role to celebrate the holidays. She feels guilty for not upholding family traditions like baking cookies and decorating the house. Knowing her family’s (and her own) disappointment gets her down until depression takes hold. How can relatives help when they don’t live in the same house—or even the same town as the caregiver? If you plan to visit a friend or relative who is a caregiver, plan to stay in a nearby hotel or at another relative’s home. Few things are more stressful than a houseful of company, especially for the caregiver of a dependent elderly person.
It’s a thoughtful idea to let the caregiver know well in advance that travel and visiting plans won’t disrupt her household. Knowing guests will stay in a hotel and have plans to eat out will help relieve the extra pressure. Good communication will save a lot of wear and tear on her nerves.
Avoid criticizing the caregiver’s home. Whether it’s a living room that needs dusting, dirty dishes still in the dishwasher, or some other fault, don’t say anything (unless of course there is a real health concern). Pitch in and do a little housekeeping—mop the floors, empty the garbage cans, or dust the living room—if the gesture will be accepted without putting more guilt on the caregiver.
Don’t expect to be fed or entertained. A primary home caregiver rarely has time to go to the grocery store, much less make a big holiday dinner. Why not take the caregiver out for a meal? Or, if she can’t leave the house, then why not bring dinner already prepared to her home? Do whatever works best with the least amount of work for the caregiver.
Prepare for Holiday Changes
Caregivers should be prepared to accept changes in family holiday celebrations especially when a patient begins to decline. Giving up hosting Christmas dinner for the entire family may be tough, but there is no joy in being overworked and overwhelmed for the sake of tradition. A solution may be to alternate hosting duties between family members. In any case, a well-planned, well delegated list of duties to share in meal preparation, décor, and clean-up will help those holiday events be a little easier. If changes are necessary, accepting those changes early on is in the best coping for the caregiver and the loved one. If attending events outside of your home is impossible for the caregiver or the patient, you may be able to “Facetime” or “Skype” so that you can connect with loved ones.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
If you are a primary caregiver, don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you have local friends and family, ask them to pitch in and help you make it through the holidays. Bedford at Home is a locally owned company offering services provided by CNAs, LPSs, RNs and Personal Care assistants. We offer short and long-term respite services, including but not limited to: Travel Companions, sitting with your loved one during hospital and long-term care stays, or just providing relief when you need a day off. All services are available 24/7, including weekends and holidays. Bedford at Home wants to help you be the best caregiver you can be.
For more information, call us at 601-271-6004 or visit us online at bedfordathome.com
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