Overcoming Caregiver Challenges During the Holidays
Remember to Take Care of Yourself
The holidays create many extra to-dos and can be stressful without the added responsibilities of caring for a loved one. Seasonal stress, combined with providing care for a loved one, can overwhelm some caregivers. It is common for caregivers to experience feelings of loss for “the way things used to be,” or to have a sense of guilt about what they think they should do, or how they think they should feel.
If the stress of caregiving is left undealt with, it can take a toll on health, relationships, and state of mind—eventually leading to burnout. When you’re burned out, it’s tough to do anything, let alone look after someone else.
Some emotional and physical symptoms of caregiver stress to watch for are:
- Anxiety, depression, irritability
- Cutting back on leisure activities
- Difficulty sleeping
- Drinking, smoking, or eating more
- Feeling increasingly resentful
- Feeling tired and run down
- Neglecting responsibilities
- New or worsening health problems
- Overreacting to minor nuisances
- Trouble concentrating
There are steps you can take to balance caregiver responsibilities with holiday planning and events:
- Be flexible. The holidays are steeped in personal,
family and religious traditions. Maintaining those is a lot of responsibility for family caregivers, who are often the adult children of aging parents. Ask yourself, “What is important to continue and what can we adapt or let go?”
- Take care of yourself. Make a concerted effort to schedule time for exercise and keep healthy snacks handy to help avoid sugary holiday treats.
- Communicate your needs. Conflict may arise if family members can no longer continue their traditional holiday roles. Communicating is the best way to help smooth out problems and avert new ones.
- Look for comic relief. Nothing lifts the spirit like a good laugh – gather friends together for a game
night or to watch a funny holiday movie.
- Plan ahead. Start making a list before the season arrives of who can do what so that no one has to take on the majority of the work alone.
- Make time for traditions. Don’t let favorite traditions go by the wayside during the busy holiday season.
If time or circumstances make them difficult to maintain, adapt them as necessary.
- Be resourceful. If someone wants to help, say “yes.”
Caregiving can be challenging, but it is important to note that it also has its rewards. It can give you a feeling of giving back to a loved one. It can also make you feel needed and can lead to a stronger relationship with the person receiving care.
If you feel yourself beginning to experience signs or symptoms of caregiver stress call Hospice at Home at
(269) 429-7100. We offer a variety of classes and resources to give family caregivers the tools to cope with stress.