Being a caregiver to an elderly relative is both challenging and rewarding. This role can take a physical and mental toll on the person who has taken it on, adding to their many existing responsibilities of work and family life. This time of year can create additional stress for caregivers as one also attempts to plan for the holidays, entertain, shop etc. While we have written previous blogs on caregiving in our pages, for our last blog of 2015, I thought it might be helpful to share some thoughts on how to reduce one's stress as a caregiver during the holiday season.
Communicate - always an important aspect of caregiving and stress management, communicating with your loved ones and support network is critical. People cannot be expected to 'guess' what you need and what you are feeling. Often just sharing your concerns and thoughts will result in tremendous support for both you and the person you are caring for.
ASK FOR HELP - part of communicating is knowing when you need help and not being afraid to ask for it.
Share Responsibilities - when possible, delegate and share responsibilities that are weighing heavily on you. Caregiving is much easier when its a 'team effort'. There are often many people willing and able to help out - if you only let them know what you need.
Prioritize/Be Realistic - part of coping with significant responsibility is knowing what is important and necessary and recognizing what you can let go of. Sometimes this means changing the way you do things and other times it may mean letting others know your limitations. Taking on too much will only result in you feeling overwhelmed and sometimes in physical or mental health issues. Instead of a happy holiday, you may indeed end up with quite an unhappy one. It is far better to do less and stay healthy, than do more and become unhealthy. In our world of unnecessary excess, simplifying your celebrations and just taking the time to relish the pleasures derived from sharing time with family & friends may be a wonderful change and the start of a new holiday tradition for you and your family.
Give yourself permission to feel - the holidays are often an emotional time for people, filled with memories of years gone by. As one's situation changes, and losses occur, you are bound to experience a wave of very normal emotions. It is completely okay to feel them and to share them with others.
Balance - the stress of caring for someone else can be diminished if you are able to ensure a balance in your life. do things for yourself every day: eat properly, exercise, sleep and take breaks when you need them. Don't neglect your own health - if you aren't feeling well, make the time to seek medical attention. Don't allow pressure from others or feelings of guilt to force you into doing something that you are not comfortable with. It is really okay to say 'no' if you can't or don't want to do something.
Whatever you do and however you do it, Happy Holidays and Happy New Year to all of our followers!