How to find balance as a caregiver during the holidays

December 18, 2019

For many people, the holiday season often brings feelings of joy and happiness. A time to visit with family, enjoy traditions, spend time with friends and when all the hustle and bustle slows down, it’s a time for relaxing and rest, or enjoying a favourite winter pastime.

Fora caregiver however, this time of year can be extremely stressful. Even more so than the usual day-to-day stress that they already experience in caring for a loved one. Illnesses and disabilities don’t take time off when offices shutdown for a few weeks, or vacation days are used up by the end of the calendar year for some much-needed rest and downtime.  

So in addition to all of the things a caregiver does in a day, or stays awake late into the night worrying about, there is the added strain of holiday planning and prepping.

Wait, let me write this all down

One of the biggest challenges that many caregivers face during the “most wonderful time of the year” is how they are going to manage all the extras that come up during this season. The shopping, cleaning, hosting, cooking, decorating, wrapping, and the list goes on, while still having to keep track of all the daily living tasks, medication administration, medical appointments and more, yet somehow be able to handle all that comes with the holiday season. Just typing all of that brings about a fear of burnout.

I have personally learned over the years, in a desperate bid not to loathe the holidays, to be able to take help when offered, learn to say no, cook frozen lasagnas instead of turkeys, forgo the sending of cards with pictures of my family all propped up in an awkward pose.

Homemade baking is a thing of the past, gift bags replace gift wrapping, online shopping has saved my sanity more than once.

Scheduled chaos

For many caregivers, there is solace in having an organized, somewhat predictable day and routine. Medications need to be given at a certain time, tasks like toileting, showering, dressing, meal prep, exercises, and other essential daily living tasks are broken down in a day and they have their allotted time.

This is an almost essential aspect of managing how to squeeze everything into a day that needs to be done. And these are not things that can just be put on hold or changed up quickly. When the holidays hit, schedules can often go awry quite easily. Hosting visitors, or spending time in other people’s homes, changes to clinic hours, or availability of support staff can all throw a big wrench in daily schedules.

There was a song I heard once called “Let it Go”

I have had to redefine over the last 12 years what my priorities were over the holidays. Which traditions we could maintain, and which ones we had to just let go of. As my son got older, it became harder to access some places, or participate in certain activities. I had to learn ways to coexist with a busy and stressful time, and one that comes with many expectations and anticipations.

As caregivers, we have to stop and think often about how much strain and stress we are under, and assess how much more we can take on even for short periods of time. The risk of getting burnt out and feeling resentful is heightened during the holiday season, and we need to make sure we take as many steps as possible to take care of ourselves.

How do you deal with the holidays and your day-to-day life as a caregiver?