Your loved one is so fortunate to have you during the holidays. Too many seniors spend the holidays alone. Although this time of year may be especially enjoyable for the one you are caring for, it can be very stressful and overwhelming for you, the caregiver.
The holidays entail more traveling, cooking, cleaning, and planning ahead which can be difficult if all the work is on you. Setting boundaries and knowing your limits will allow you to make this time of year more manageable.
If you are a caregiver, consider the following suggestions and think about which ones you can put in place during the coming weeks to help ease your feelings of stress during the holidays.
Set manageable expectations
Be realistic about what you can and cannot do, as well as what you want to do and don’t want to do. Try not to set yourself up for disappointment by comparing this year’s holiday season with the nostalgia of past holidays. Each holiday season is different and can be enjoyed in its own way.
Ask for and accept help
While people want to be useful, they may not always know what to do. Let other family members and friends know what they can do to share in the responsibility of caregiving. Remember to consider asking people who live at a distance, as well as neighbors and people from faith-based groups or clubs, to pitch in and help.
Maintain social interactions
Isolation can further increase feelings of stress. Having the chance to have fun, laugh, and focus on something other than your at-home caregiving responsibilities can help you keep stress at bay and maintain emotional balance.
Keep it simple
If the elderly person you are caring for has dementia, avoid overly stimulating environments since that can add to their anxiety and end up increasing your stress level.
If including the elderly person in large family gatherings creates added work and stress for you, consider alternatives, such as suggesting family members plan to spend individual quality time visiting with their elderly relative.
Stay mentally healthy
The holiday season does not banish reasons for feeling sad or lonely. There’s room for feelings such as sadness, grief and/or loneliness to be present along with joyful emotions. However, if you experience any signs of depression (extreme sadness, trouble concentrating, withdrawal, or hopelessness), get professional help right away. Depression is a serious but treatable condition.
Stay physically healthy
Don’t abandon healthful eating and drinking habits. While it’s certainly okay to treat yourself during the holidays, avoid giving in to stress-driven urges for overeating or for overindulging in alcohol.
Continue to exercise regularly, even if it means finding someone else to take over your caregiver duties. Getting enough exercise can be of tremendous benefit to both your physical and emotional wellbeing.
Find ways to ensure you get enough rest. Sleep deprivation can sap your energy, distort your thinking and lead directly to making your mind and your body feel more stressed.
Seek emotional and moral support from other caregivers. There is a great strength in knowing you are not alone. Many communities have support groups for family caregivers of elderly persons through local hospitals, churches and/or community centers.
You can also use community resources such as meal or shopping services, home-care aides, adult day services, and volunteer help from faith-based organizations or civic groups.
Find time for yourself to do something you especially enjoy such as reading, walking, listening to music, gardening, or visiting with a friend. Keep yourself healthy and happy or you won’t be healthy enough to care for your loved one.
Helping you through the process
Oasis Senior Advisors can provide you with support and guidance when you feel it’s time for your loved one to move to assisted living. We offer resources for seniors and their families, so you can feel confident in your senior housing selection.