Many people think of the month of November as synonymous with Thanksgiving and the beginning of the winter holiday season. But did you also know November is National Family Caregivers Month?
While the six week stretch between Thanksgiving and New Year’s can be a time of joy and celebration, it can also be the most stressful time of the year for family caregivers. Holiday activities such as shopping for gifts, wrapping gifts, baking cookies, visiting with family and friends and sending holiday cards can take up additional time and add responsibility to a family caregiver’s already packed calendar. The additional responsibilities can disrupt family schedules and care routines, making the family caregiver feel overwhelmed and out of control. Eliminating holiday disruption 100% for the family caregiver is not realistic, but minimizing it is possible.
Consider the following tips to minimize holiday disruption and maximize your holiday experience.
Use your calendar to help you plan. Sometimes keeping a calendar during the holidays can be overwhelming because absolutely everything is written in one place. Keeping time sensitive items separate from your daily holiday to-do list may reduce anxiety. Prioritize your holiday activities and determine which activities you will do and which to delegate. Only write your priority activities in your calendar, such as appointments, deadlines, special events and time sensitive errands. Placing only important and time sensitive items on your calendar can help reduce calendar clutter.
Learn to say no without feeling guilty. Learning to say no to others is saying yes to yourself and the person you are caring for. It is not selfish to say no; it is empowering. If you do not say no, you and the person you are caring for will be exhausted and you will not be able to enjoy anything.
Take care of yourself. Although providing care for a loved one can feel overwhelming, try to be aware of your own health and the ways stress may affect you. To mitigate caregiver stress and strain, try to get enough sleep, adopt healthy eating habits, attend to your own medical needs and exercise regularly. Especially during the holidays don’t skip medications or medical appointments. Try to avoid foods rich in sugar and caffeine, as they may boost your energy for a bit but then leave you feeling burned out. When you take care of yourself, you have more energy and the resilience to manage the demands of caregiving.
Shop non-traditionally. Using the internet to shop for food and gifts is a great way to prepare for the holidays without leaving home. If you feel uncomfortable about using your credit card with your computer, consider ordering from home using a catalog. You can also use the internet or a catalog to help you plan your gift list. This can help you to know exactly where to go and what you are getting when you get there.
Ask for help. Enlist family or friends to help. Consider using Lotsa Helping Hands (lotsahelpinghands.org) as an online toolbox to coordinate care and make life easier for you as a caregiver. Tools include an online calendar, which empowers members to schedule and sign up for tasks that can provide you respite. Planning ahead for respite is imperative.
The holiday season is approaching fast! November is a time to give thanks. Family caregivers give their care generously. Next time that you see a family caregiver, show your appreciation. This is a perfect time to acknowledge their generosity.