Here we are in the winter holiday season! We know that, especially for caregivers and care receivers, this magical time can also be a stressful time. So how can we lessen the stress and increase the magic? A couple tips:
Before holiday events, plan carefully:
Ask for help
Lean on your support network to help you and your care receiver have a low-stress experience.
Familiarize family and friends about the care receiver's current status
Share any accommodations the care receiver may need and any triggers to be mindful of.
Prepare to include care receiver in holiday activities
It can be easy to exclude someone who has a hard time hearing, speaking, remembering, staying on task, or has physical challenges, especially during busy times like holidays. Intentionally including care receivers helps them feel part of the event rather than merely at the event.
If the care receiver is usually the host, the leader of a special tradition, or involved in a physically demanding activity, be aware that they may not be able to participate the same way they have before.
Recognize strengths of care receiver
Focus on what they can do versus what they can't do. There are so many strengths to celebrate!
During holiday events, make adjustments as needed:
Include care receivers in holiday activities
Accommodations mean accessibility. How can holiday activities be more accessible?
Encourage communication with care receiver
Communicating may require a bit more patience, especially for those who aren't around your care receiver as often, but it helps the care receiver feel valued and included.
Practice active listening
Listen to your care receiver for clues that would help prevent confusion and increase feelings of care and belonging.
After holiday events, review how things went:
Assess overall thoughts and feelings
What went well? What could have gone better?
Ask for help (if not offered)
Many hands make light work!
Begin planning for next year
What have we learned that we could adjust for next time?
With planning, communication, reflection, and leaning on our support network, we can help make holidays more manageable and enjoyable for caregivers and care receivers alike. There is no way to anticipate or prevent every hiccup, but when we take the time to prepare and adjust, we can provide ourselves and others with more opportunities for a successful holiday experience.
And, in all things, we must be gentle with yourself. Caregiving is a lot of work. Holidays can carry a lot of pressure. Be kind to yourself, give yourself grace, and remember that, no matter how things are going, you really are doing your best.