Caregiving During the Holidays: Tips to Navigate Gatherings

When we think of the holidays, we often think of family traditions, special foods and big celebrations — all the things that make the season special. Unfortunately for caregivers, especially those of older adults, many of the things that make it a special time can also make it a stressful time. Here are a few tips to make sure the holidays are fun and manageable for both you and your loved one:

Manage your expectations and your workload

Be honest with yourself about what you can and can’t accomplish. Perhaps gift lists, guest lists, or the number of events on your calendar can be scaled down. As a caregiver, time and energy are at a premium. Prioritize. Decide what’s most important to you, your loved one and your family, and what’s just holiday window dressing. Be honest with other family members about what you can and can’t do. 

Keep celebrations smaller and simpler

Big crowds can sometimes be agitating for people with dementia and may even trigger challenging behaviors. You may decide to forgo the huge family gatherings and consider hosting a small-scale celebration with just a few family members instead. If being at the big family gathering is important for you or your loved one, consider limiting the time you’ll attend. Also consider asking your host or hostess to help you identify a quiet spot that you and your loved one can retreat to if they begin to feel overwhelmed or agitated. Make sure to do this when you arrive, so you won’t have to seek out your host in a moment of crisis.

Let people know what to expect

If your loved one’s condition has changed a lot from the last time family members saw them, be prepared to help people understand how to best interact. This can be especially true if your loved one now has a difficult time communicating.  

Make sure you’re prepared when you visit

If your holiday schedule includes celebrating somewhere other than your own home, be sure you’re prepared. If your loved one has a restricted diet or may have trouble eating holiday offerings, you may want to bring some appropriate food with you. Having a change of clothes on hand for your loved one and appropriate hygiene supplies can also do a lot to bring down the stress level if a problem arises.  

Accept help if it’s offered

Caregivers sometimes have a difficult time letting others support their loved one. But they can and you should allow them to help if they offer. Your loved one may want to interact with different people, and you might want a few moments to socialize with family and friends.  

Be good to yourself

Lastly, caregiving is hard any time of year. Acknowledge that and — above all — be sure to treat yourself with kindness this holiday season.  

This content is provided by the Area Agency on Aging 1-B, a nonprofit that serves older adults and family caregivers in Livingston, Macomb, Monroe, Oakland, St. Clair and Washtenaw counties. We provide services, programs and resources that are designed to help seniors age safely and independently. Call us at 800-852-7795 to get connected. 

Opinions expressed in this blog belong solely to the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or beliefs of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan or its subsidiaries and affiliates. 

Find more health tips and information on healthy aging from A Healthier Michigan here.

Photo credit: Getty Images


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