Let’s face it. Caregiving can be a full-time and demanding job. Add to that the demands and expectations of the holidays and you have even more stress than usual for caregivers.
How can caregivers prepare for and get through the holidays while still caring for their loved one and themselves?
Caregivers must remind themselves of their dual-purpose at this time in their lives:
- To care for their loved one
- To care for themselves
Everything else must be prioritized. One thing is for sure. You won’t have time to do all the things you used to do for the holidays, so pick and choose things that will add some joy to you and your loved one’s lives. Accept that this year the holidays may be different, determine what holiday activities or memories are most important to you. Do not over-commit yourself to holiday activities that you probably won’t be able to support. Pick and choose wisely!
This is so important for caregivers to remember. Sometimes we get so busy with the holidays and the pressure and stress, that we need to remind ourselves what is really most important. We just need to be there for our loved ones. If you have to let a few things go, so be it. It will not be the end of the world. Don’t be afraid to ask others for help!
So, what can you do to take the pressure off, but still have as nice of a holiday as possible for your loved one and yourself?
Are you lacking the time, energy, or passion to put up the Christmas tree and decorate the house? Have a decorating party! Ask a couple of close friends or relatives if they could help you out this year. Let them put up the tree and decorate the house if you aren’t up to it. Even if you don’t have all the usual decorations out, think about a few that were especially meaningful or a few favorites of your loved one. Don’t forget some of your favorites too! Maybe you have some decorations that will bring back fond memories of happier times. It will do you and your loved one good to recall some happier times and good memories. Even though you and your loved one may have difficulty getting into the holiday spirit, having some decorations around the house can help lift your spirits. Put on some Christmas music and heat up some hot chocolate or apple cider while your decorating crew takes charge.
Now, what about the food? If your family is used to a lot of homemade goodies and you are knee-deep in being a full-time caregiver, you may not have the time and energy to do all the things you normally would do for the holidays. Once again, you could ask for help with this. If you explain you don’t have the ability to do all the usual activities this year, perhaps someone will volunteer and bring you some baked goods. If you can find time to do a limited amount of baking and cooking, ask your loved one what he or she would most like to have to eat and focus on those items.
Remember, sometimes the medications cancer patients are on cause foods to taste strange. The end result is sometimes things that they normally would have loved in the past, may not taste good anymore to them. Be aware of any problems your loved one may be having regarding foods.
When it comes to the big holiday meal, you will need to consider the current status of your loved one’s health and the current status of your health and well-being.
Is your loved one up to receiving a large number of guests and a big day of entertaining? Would it boost his or her spirits? If you usually host the holidays, it could be that someone else will need to take over this year if it is going to be too much for you and your loved one. You know your unique situation. You must analyze it and make a determination what is best. The big consideration is communication with friends and family involved. Many do not truly understand what you are coping with. Close family and friends may need to be told. If all else fails, consider ordering a couple of meals from the Community Christmas Dinner to be delivered to your house.
Is the shopping done? Think online, if you have the time. Some items can be ordered online and picked up at your local store right away! Again, depending on your circumstance, perhaps you will need to ask someone to help you a bit. Maybe someone could do the wrapping for you also. If all else fails, there’s always gift certificates. Perhaps your caregiving situation is particularly demanding and there’s no way to do the shopping. Explain to those you normally give gifts to that it just wasn’t possible to do everything this year. They will understand if you explain.
Get out some old photos or videos of past holidays. Share some smiles, some good memories of past holidays, and some laughs with your loved one. Remember to focus on anything positive that you can. Keep the care of your loved one and yourself as your top two priorities. Let the other things go, if you can’t fit them in. Your loved one needs you much more than that Snickerdoodle Cookie!
Like the tips in this article? There’s lots more to be found in Susan’s new book, “Cocoon of Love for Cancer Caregivers: Get Through the Tough Times”. Available now on Amazon.com and in some stores. http://amzn.to/1Yza3JG