Caregiving is stressful. And the upcoming holiday season can add even more stress. Here are some tips to remind all hardworking caregivers to take care of yourselves, too. Reducing stress will not only improve your own health but enable you to be a better caretaker for all those in your circle of care.
- Accept help. Caregivers balance a lot in their day-to-day lives, and the holiday season is often a busy time of year with lots of items on the to-do list. Covid-19 continues to make life more difficult, and this may also mean that help for caregivers may look different. Maybe a friend or family member can arrange to have groceries or prepared meals delivered to the caregiver or person being cared for. Have a family member or friend go for a socially distanced walk or have a socially distanced visit with the person being cared for to give the caregiver a break.
- Get connected. Caregivers often feel alone in their role, and the holidays can be an especially challenging time for them. Covid-19 continues to make many feel more lonely, with restrictions on gatherings and canceled activities. Happily, many caregiver support services have become virtual, including caregiver support groups and other community programming for caregivers. Check out this list from Care.com of virtual support groups. You may also want to contact your local Council on Aging or Area Agency on Aging to find out what virtual support programs are available in your community.
- Seek social support. Family and friends provide important emotional support to caregivers. Even if your travel or gatherings continue to be constrained by Covid-19, do make sure you check in with extended family members to share your feelings and updates on how your caregiving is going. Do you need more help? What kind of help? You don’t have to have all the answers to reach out for additional support.
- Plan ahead. Now more than ever we see how uncertain the future can be. Planning ahead can really help to reduce anxiety. What will happen if the caregiver gets sick? What will happen if the person you are caring for gets sick? What happens if other care providers, such as an adult day program or respite, become modified or unavailable? Put a plan together for any of these questions now so that you are prepared later.
- Celebrate the holidays a little differently. Caregiving during the holidays can be difficult because of the physical and/or cognitive limitations of the person receiving care. Maybe they are easily overstimulated or have a hard time getting around. This year, take the opportunity to celebrate the holidays in a new, and simpler, way, focusing on what is most meaningful to you and your family. Is travel too difficult or risky? The pandemic has revealed that Zoom holidays can still be deeply meaningful, easier on the caregivers (less cooking, traveling, etc.) and on the person receiving care. Take advantage of some of the new holiday activities in your community, like drive-through light displays, or watching holiday concerts or movies on TV.
- Fill your tank. Caregivers are constantly giving themselves to others, especially during the holiday season. “All that giving can leave you running on empty,” cautions AARP. Find ways to “fill your tank,” like getting lots of sleep, exercising, and enjoying holiday traditions like decorating the house, baking, or listening to holiday music. Put that “me time” on your calendar and enjoy it — you deserve it!
You are not alone!
We hope these tips have been helpful, and we want to remind you that you are not alone, even though it might feel like it sometimes. Many caregivers have a hard time asking for help and may end up feeling depressed and isolated. During the ongoing global pandemic, even those of us who are not caregivers are feeling this way, so it’s even more important for caregivers to seek support. The theme of this year’s National Family Caregivers Month is “caregiving around the clock,” acknowledging the reality that caregivers never truly get a break from caregiving. For additional caregiving resources, check out Mental Health America, the Caregiver Action Network, The Family Caregiver Alliance, AARP, and the National Institute on Aging.