There’s been a chill in the air, some snow on the ground, and decorations are being hung. These are all signs of the upcoming holidays – traditionally seen as a time for great joy and merriment. But the holidays are not always merry for all. Caregivers can experience increased challenges and are prime candidates for considerable risk at this time of year.
How so? When you pause to think about this, this makes sense. Much of the focus of the holidays surrounds the family; however, a caregiver’s family may have changed dramatically. Mom / Dad will be aging and may be in poorer health – an issue which can easily be a priority for caregivers to think about. Furthermore, an aging parent may not be able to join the family for seasonal celebrations (stairs to family homes often prove to be obstacles as seniors may be too weak to climb them) or may have even completely forgotten the significance of the holidays – my own father had these memories stolen from him due to advancing Alzheimer’s disease. Therefore, what has routinely been a festive time of year can change into a very gloomy time of year as caregivers face the realities of losing their parents and may not feel like rejoicing. Additionally, caregivers can be kept busy with tending to additional caregiving responsibilities and may not have the time or energy to scurry from shop to shop for gifts, do holiday baking, or get together with friends for some holiday cheer.
I understand and respect these facts. At one time, I was a caregiver myself. While you may be tempted to play “Scrooge” this year and try to hibernate and/or completely forget the holidays, it is vital for you to partake in some of these activities or any other activities that can take you away from your daily caregiving responsibilities. Think of yourself and what you enjoy when considering respite breaks. Escape for a relaxing cup of coffee; bundle up and go for a walk outside to hear the snow crunching underneath your boots; or curl up with someone special, a hot chocolate and a good movie on NetFlix. Anything you can do to focus on yourself – now and throughout the rest of the year – can do you a world of good! By focusing on “you” you can rest, recharge, and have the energy and good health to continually help and support your aging loved one. You need to give to yourself to continually give to others.
Besides helping you, respite can prove to be productive in other means as well. As an idea, choose a quiet time to go to a local shopping mall. Normally, such retail centres are swarming now; however, you can find some peace here by scheduling your gift-buying trips at off-peak times. Whenever possible, I like to go browse earlier on a weekday, rather than battle the evening and/or weekend crowds and continually circle the mall in search of a parking space outside. This accomplishes two things – you can better complete your own gift shopping and you can enjoy some personal time as well.
My message here is simply to remember yourself during the holidays. Festive cheer can easily prove to be overwhelming. Recognizing this fact is an important first step (you can’t do anything about a problem until you can admit there is a problem) and doing something about it is crucial for your own personal, emotional, and mental health. As an answer, give yourself the gift of caregiver respite.
Please watch for my further discussion and tips on caregiver self-care in the months ahead on The Caregiver Network.