How to Help Family Caregivers During the Holidays
How to Help Family Caregivers During the Holidays
In many cases, a family member stepping into the role of caregiver can be the difference between an aging parent or relative getting to stay living in the home they love, or having to move into an assisted living facility. Caregivers make sacrifices every day to help their loved ones continue to live independently and comfortably, but it can be challenging and stressful for them to manage their role as caregiver along with their other responsibilities. While we should show them appreciation throughout the year, the stress on caregivers can be overwhelming during the holiday season.
What caregivers need most.
Family caregivers often assist their loved one with daily activities like preparing meals, eating, bathing, and dressing, along with assistance outside of the home, including getting to and from doctor appointments, grocery shopping, and running errands. Aside from their role as caregiver, which is often unpaid, they have family responsibilities of their own, a household to take care of, and possibly a paying job as well. We understand the needs of an aging loved one…but what does a caregiver need most?
A caregiver needs appreciation, compassion, and, most of all, time. During the holidays, when caregivers may feel more stressed in other areas of their lives, we need to make an effort to lighten their burden. We can help manage a caregiver’s physical and emotional stress during the holiday season by acknowledging the hard work they put in every day and making sure they get the break they deserve.
Taking care of the caregiver.
Consider some of the following tips that may help alleviate the stress on your caregiver around the holidays:
- Plan ahead. Make a schedule in advance of the holidays that will provide some much needed time off for your caregiver to accomplish their own personal tasks, but will allow you to continue getting the help you need.
- Be flexible. We can get set in our ways, and although a routine is often helpful in successful home care, the holidays may require a little patience and flexibility. Consider the seasonal needs of your caregiver, and if your routine can be adjusted to give them some extra time, try to make arrangements that will allow for it.
- Take advantage of respite care services. Look into local organizations that offer respite care, a service that allows a caregiver some time off while their loved one is taken care of in a safe environment. Do some research in advance of the holidays so you are comfortable with the respite care community available to you. The services can be used to give a caregiver an afternoon off, or to fill in for longer periods of time.
- Use caregiving tools and technology. If the person you care for is able to safely and comfortably stay in their home for short periods of time by themselves, you can utilize smart home technology to stay in touch. Sensors can be placed around the home or worn to monitor falls, medications reminders, movement and inactivity. Mobile apps can make it easy for someone in need to call you with a single tap on their phone, and remote monitoring can give your caregiver the peace of mind they need in order to take a little time away.
- Ask for help from other family members. While they might not live permanently close by, family visiting over the holidays will be happy to give your primary caregiver a break, but you may need to ask for their help. With the best of intentions, out of town relatives may not realize the extent of the sacrifices made by your caregiver all year, and they might be hesitant to step on any toes or disrupt your routine. Let them know that you’d love to give your caregiver a day or two off, and would love to spend time with them while they are in town.
Communicating with your caregiver.
Open and honest communication with your caregiver is essential for a successful relationship, but it can be even more important during the holiday season. The holidays can be joyful, but many people of all ages feel depressed or anxious during this time of year. It is a hectic time for your caregiver, and after spending so much time together, you may start to feel some of their stress. Take the time to sit and talk about your feelings and your appreciation for what they do, and encourage your caregiver to consider their own needs. Let them know you are grateful for their commitment to your wellness, and want to make sure they stay healthy, physically and emotionally, as well. You can help manage their stress just by acknowledging their hard work and encouraging them to address their own personal needs, especially during this time of year.
Gifts for the caregiver.
Gift-giving during the holidays can be a lot of fun, and when it comes to your caregiver, you can use the opportunity to express your gratitude for all they do. Consider gifts they can use to make time for themselves, such as movie tickets, a mani/pedi spa day, a book from their favorite author, a gift certificate for a local restaurant, or something special they could do for a day out, like a trip to a museum, amusement park, or theater. If you can’t get out of the house to do any shopping, secure, reputable online shopping sites can deliver almost anything, and many will even wrap gifts before shipping. Caregivers are generous throughout the year in the spirit, time, and energy they put into helping you, and it doesn’t take a lot of money to give them a gift that reflects your appreciation for them.
Simply giving your caregiver the gift of time can go a long way in reducing your caregiver’s stress throughout the holidays. Talk to close friends or other family members and arrange for some alternative care, even if its just for a few hours. Your caregiver will appreciate your efforts to give them some time for themselves during this busy season.