Caring for a chronically ill loved one can be one of life's greatest challenges, but during holidays, when even more responsibilities are added to an already stressful schedule, caregivers can often feel guilty and frustrated for not being able to accomplish all the tasks they once did . Additionally, fond memories of past holidays, when a loved one was still healthy, can create a downward spiral with feelings of loss and sadness.
More than fifty million people, one in every five Americans, help loved ones who can no longer help themselves. But when caring for another, a caregiver often neglects their own well-being, oftentimes not even seeing themselves as a caregiver, but simply as a loving family member.
STEPS CAREGIVERS CAN TAKE TO REDUCE STRESS AND ENJOY HOLIDAYS
* Take Care of You: You can not be an effective caregiver if you are so stressed that you get sick too. As hard as it is to find the time and motivation, realize that it's imperative that you nurture yourself.
-Eat healthy: set limits on high fat and processed foods, caffeine and too many sugar-laden treats that can increase fatigue.
-Exercise often: take a walk, stretch, lift weights, do isometrics.
-Get proper sleep: take naps when necessary.
-Meditate: practice deep breathing and visualize happy times.
-Attend a support group regularly: solutions will present themselves.
-Get reply care for your loved one: the break will help you.
-Do things you enjoy: read, music, hobbies, crafts, movies, etc.
-Use a hand sanitizer: viral and bacterial infections can be reduced.
-Treat depression: find a therapist, ask your doctor to consider prescribing an anti-depressant.
-Get annual physicals and appropriate tests: cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes, mammogram, prostate, colonoscopy, etc.
* Organize & Pace Yourself: Be careful not to take on more than you can manage. Make lists of things that must be done, and secondary lists of things you would like to accomplish if possible. Be sure to set strict limits with yourself and others of what you can and can not do.
* Ask For Help: Do not wait for friends and family to ask what they can do to help. Instead, make a list and ask everyone to pick the tasks they feel comfortable with. In addition to the long list of caregiving chores, add: cleaning the house / garage / pantry, taking the car in for service / tire rotation, gardening, shopping, and include holiday tasks such as:
-writing a holiday letter
-Buying / sending gifts
-Cooking meals for the freezer
-Organizing social events
-Taking down decorations
-Sending thank-you notes
* Accept Invitations: Even if you do not feel like going out at the moment, having activities to look forward to will help you feel less isolated and deprived of a normal life. If your loved one can not attend with you, arrange for their care with family, friends, or through an agency. Be aware that having fun, laughing, and focusing on subjects other than caregiving and ill health, will help to keep you in emotional balance.
* Use Adult Day Care: Enrolling older loved ones in Adult Day Care is often the very best thing for them, as well as for you. They'll be busy enjoying activities like singing, crafts, cooking, gardening, bingo, etc., with professionals who know how to motivate and manage them. They'll come home tired and probably sleep through the night. When you get several hours during the day and sleep better at night – your caregiving batteries will recharge.
* Seek Professional Help: Numerous resources are available to help caregivers. Consider hiring a Geriatric Care Manager, who can personally guide you through the complicated maze of eldercare. Also, many faith-based organizations offer support to family caregivers.
-Area Agency on Aging or Department of Aging
-Family Caregiver Support Program (800) 422-3263
-Eldercare Locator (800) 677-1116
-Alzheimer's Association (800) 272-3900
-National Family Caregivers Association (800) 896-3650
-National Adult Day Services Association (212) 494-0755
* Shift Perspective: Resolve to stay in the present, savor the good moments, and guard against focusing on the decline of your loved one. Imagine yourself in their position, needing a caregiver to do things for you all of the time. Now ask yourself what you'd want for your loved ones who'd be taking care of you? Would you want them to be continuously sad, depressed, burdened, isolated, and not living up to their potential or following their dreams – because of you? Of course not.
Realize that your happiness is what your loved one wants most for you (even if it does not seem like it), and that you do them honor by living a balanced and fulfilled life, which includes enjoying holidays.