While many of us will anticipate, celebrate, and share good cheer with others throughout the upcoming holiday season, this time of year can prove to be immensely difficult for caregivers.
Before you call caregivers “Scrooge”, think about and appreciate their situations for a moment. With everything they must do for aging loved ones, caregivers can constantly be on the go. Days and nights are already filled with caregiving responsibilities. When you add yet more (seasonal-related) responsibilities (e.g. present-buying, gift-wrapping, holiday baking, etc.), a caregiver cannot – or does not – always have the necessary energy nor the time to complete these tasks.
Caregivers lacking the joyful seasonal spirit may also be dreading the upcoming family dinner without the familiar presence of a parent. Mom or Dad may now be in long-term care and be unable to join in with sharing holiday cheer. Without Mom or Dad at the dinner table, there can be a tremendous hole to fill and it’s understandable how caregivers may not look forward to this time.
Consider also that former caregivers may have lost a significant loved one recently and the upcoming holidays will be the first time without him/her. When one thinks of the festive season, one may also think of “family”. When a family member has passed away, these former caregivers can (and do) feel an increased sadness at this time of year. As a previous co-caregiver for both my own aging parents, I well remember facing my first holiday season without either Mom or Dad. It wasn’t easy and, now even years later, I still feel those losses and a twinge of regret around this time of year.
Caregivers can help themselves through this holiday season by giving themselves the gift of personal respite. Take some quiet time to escape the increasingly-busy shopping malls and insist on this time for yourself. This time away will serve you well as it will allow you time to rest. Thanks to many television channels being now available, it’s easy enough to choose something other than another rerun of “It’s a Wonderful Life” or “Miracle on 34th Street” to watch. Pull out a movie from your own DVD collection instead. If you’re feeling more active, bundle up and head outside to shovel your front sidewalk (why not shovel your neighbour’s front sidewalk too? – ‘tis the season for giving, after all …).
Enjoy dinner out, treat yourself to a massage, take the kids to the skating rink or toboggan hill, soak in a hot tub or relax in a sauna, go to a comedy club and laugh … choose whatever you choose to do and please do not feel guilty or less a loving caregiver for doing something for you. You are not neglecting someone you love; in fact, you would be doing him/her and you both a favour by enjoying some respite time. You will spend countless hours helping and supporting someone you care about … you will also need to spend some time on yourself to be able to maintain the pace and be the best caregiver you can be. Yes, the holidays can be fast and furious; however, this becomes all the better reason to be mindful of your own health and well-being. Personal respite is one of the best gifts a caregiver can give to him/herself and there are truly so many benefits.