The holidays can be stressful for everyone. For caregivers it might even be more intense because you’ve got to help those you are caring for manage their stress while you are managing your own and perhaps the stress of other family members and loved ones. Being prepared for the stress is often one of the best keys for reducing the high levels of anxiety, anticipation and expectation that come with the holidays. Who is going to be giving gifts to whom and how can holiday gatherings be arranged so that everyone is as comfortable as possible?
In researching this for myself because I had to find a balance between helping my wife get the care she needed and our family sharing special holiday time with her, I found some great resources to help all of us get through what had become – in the light of her unexpected stage four pancreatic cancer diagnosis – our last holiday together as a family.
I also had to manage m own needs during what precious time we had left and these tips proved to be very useful:
Give yourself the gift of asking for help and make sure you are open to accepting it. According to James Huysman caregivers accept the role of hero, martyr or savior and too often "go it alone.”
In scheduling celebrations, the News Gazette suggests that, when it comes to gatherings, the time of day matters, especially for those taking medications that may make them tired.
Make the gatherings as easy as possible. Experts at Iowa State University recommend inviting guests to the home of the care receiver so that he or she will be comfortable and not have to be taken out.
They also add that potluck meals brought by those visiting help reduce the caregiver’s duties as host.
Most important of all – and this one I learned first hand - communicate with family and friends throughout the season, so that everyone knows who is doing what. This allows all to participate, share ideas and address concerns before they can become problems.
J. Dietrich Stroeh is author of Three Months: A Caregiving Journey from Heartbreak to Healing (2012 FolkHeart Press). For more information, visit www.threemonthsbook.com.