How to relieve caregiver stress during the holidays?
When you add holiday stress to the stress that being a caregiver normally entails, the outcome could be a meltdown of Chernobyl proportions. Caregivers are already prone to feelings of isolation and depression, regardless of the time of the year. In addition to that, special occasions such as the holidays may bring even more problems than they do solutions. For example, the 65 million Americans who, according to the National Alliance for Caregiving, provide care for a relative spend an average of 20 hours a week on caregiver detail. The last thing they need is the added burden of the responsibilities, real or perceived, that the holidays involve.
A big part of the problem though, is that the caregiver has either chosen or been led to be so because it is in their nature to be selfless and nurturing. As such, he or she may take it upon themselves to ensure everybody at a family gathering is properly taken care of, even those who can perfectly take care of themselves. Moreover, some people tend to ponder upon the great questions of life and death during the holidays, which may prove to be overwhelming in the case of people who care for a loved one who has a chronic or serious illness like cancer or Alzheimer’s disease.
All things considered, the overall effect that the holidays have on caregivers is to magnify the challenges that they have to face every day, like having too little time to do so many things with little to no help from friends or other family members. We mentioned that to some degree the caregiver chooses to be part of the problem; likewise, they can choose to be part of the solution. For instance, they can allow themselves to enjoy the holidays, in moderation of course (as everyone else should, for that matter). That means they should go to a party now and then, but not to try and drown their problems in food or alcohol.
That is not to say that the caregiver should plaster on a happy face at all times, because if it isn’t sincere, after a while it will resemble more a Chelsea grin than an actual smile. It’s important to understand that all feelings are acceptable during the holidays, including sadness and grief. Caregivers should not only acknowledge these feelings but also take the opportunity to share them with those closest to them. Finally, they should not be afraid either of asking for help or accepting it when offered in this the busiest of seasons.
Related Read: What to give a caregiver for Christmas?