The holidays are here and that means time to visit family, reconnect with old friends and spend time considering the things for which you are thankful. Of course, if you are acting as the caregiver to an elderly loved one, you know the holidays can also mean a great deal of stress. Between managing all the social affairs, scheduling things with elderly loved one, and running interference to keep the holidays from wearing out the elderly, you can end up exhausted and overwhelmed yourself. Here are five ways you can practice self-care during these times so you can start the new year refreshed and ready to continue providing the care your elderly loved one needs.
1. Meet with your family and close friends
It’s good to start the holiday season by managing expectations. Some people—who may genuinely have good intentions and simply do not know any different—may expect more out of you at this time of the year than you can reasonably give. Don’t be afraid to tell them you cannot participate in coordinating get-togethers or other demanding activities. You’ve got enough on your plate already.
2. If you have not done so, take the opportunity to find a support system
As a caregiver, there are times when you simply need to take a break. Find some people who are able to step in and provide some relief. Ideally, this would be your family members or close friends, but if they are unable to do so, you can contact community groups. However you do it, find someone who can help you take a load off your plate every now and then.
3. Don’t overindulge on holiday foods
The holidays are a great time to eating a lot of bad food. Between the dinners, snacks, parties, and so on, it’s easy to start eating a lot of stuff that you should not be eating. There’s nothing wrong with a small treat now and then, but you don’t want to go too far: Caregivers who are physically unhealthy tend to burn out faster and are more susceptible to stress. So, for your own sake and that of your elderly loved one, practice moderation on eating the treats.
4. Reserve a quiet place for yourself and your elderly loved one
Although a great part of the holidays is the ability to get together with people you haven’t seen all year, get togethers can be stressful, especially if your elderly loved one starts to feel cornered or strained. Thus, when you go to a gathering, find a quiet room where you can take your elderly loved one (or just yourself) for some quiet minutes. Talk to the host in advance, if necessary, and let him or her know about your need. You’ll usually find that he or she will be quite understanding and will try to accommodate you.
5. If someone offers help, accept it
Many caregivers end up playing the martyr whenever they are offered help. Whether it’s out of a sense of obligation or a warped sense of pride, they feel like they need to do it all themselves. Don’t be such a caregiver. If someone tells you they would like to offer help, accept it!
You don’t have to allow them to take over your caregiving duties completely; you could just ask them to watch your elderly loved one for a few hours while you go take a nap, see a movie, spend time in a bookstore, or do something else you enjoy. You’ll appreciate the break and come back to it better able to provide the care your elderly loved one really needs.
Other things for which you could ask for help include assistance in preparing meals, running errands, or doing something as simple as putting up Christmas lights. Small tasks that other people can perform for you those you won’t have to do yourself, and that will make your holiday season less stressful.
Remember to slow down and enjoy yourself
The holidays should be a time of enjoyment and thankfulness. Research has shown that, all else being equal, a positive mindset will lead to greater happiness and even better physical health. So, don’t let the hustle and bustle of the holidays drain you. Instead, take a moment in a quiet place to center your being, take a deep breath, and remember that you have a lot to be thankful for!
Following these tips can help ensure that you don’t succumb to stress during the holiday season. Instead, you can enjoy yourself and you’ll find that when the next year rolls around you’ll be able to continue providing the same great care you have provided so far!
Gruver, K. Stress Relief and Self-Care for the Compassionate Caregiver. International Journal for Human Caring (2015) (Vol. 19 Issue 4). Available at http://web.a.ebscohost.com/abstract?direct=true&profile=ehost&scope=site&authtype=crawler&jrnl=10915710&AN=114938868&h=NytYfid8vpgV6%2b8CYQdQoWV91GCxVb8wRcRVuLskJ8JQ6ROQrNUqjQ%2f8NvcE0S1G0R0NXMJPFPyOhHjHJ3b71w%3d%3d&crl=c&resultNs=AdminWebAuth&resultLocal=ErrCrlNotAuth&crlhashurl=login.aspx%3fdirect%3dtrue%26profile%3dehost%26scope%3dsite%26authtype%3dcrawler%26jrnl%3d10915710%26AN%3d114938868. Last visited November 23, 2016.
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