Caring for a parent or loved one can be challenging and stressful.
While being there for your loved one when they need you the most is a rewarding experience, it doesn’t mean it can’t be overwhelming.
When caring for an elderly loved one, you must remember to care for yourself as well. Far too often, caregivers believe they must put their needs on hold.
However, not taking care of yourself can lead to caregiver burnout.
The best way to help your loved one is to maintain your health. Doing this will lead to more feelings of joy, hope, and purpose in both of your lives.
During the holiday season, it may become even more overwhelming for caregivers. To learn about managing caregiver stress and make the best of your holidays, continue reading.
Unique caregiver challenges during the holidays
When your loved one faces the challenges of a medical condition or memory loss, the holidays can be painful and lonely.
While you may understand the needs of your elderly loved one, your family members may not. When this happens, it will be up to you to make sure that everyone else understands your senior loved one’s condition and special needs.
At The Kensington Place Redwood City, we understand how challenging it can be during the holidays for caregivers when an aging relative’s health declines. That’s why we recently hosted an interactive panel discussion that addressed holiday-specific scenarios.
During the event, experts Dr. Marsha Nelson and Alison Moritz answered the following questions involving scenarios that could pop up during the season:
- Does a potluck gathering sound like a good idea for the holidays?
- Where can I get some tools to deal with my emotions such as grief, loneliness, sadness?
- Would it be selfish of me to take a trip by myself during the holidays?
- What is the best way to decline a holiday invitation?
Managing caregiver stress, guilt, and other emotions
It is normal to feel stressed, sad, frustrated, isolated, and alone. These are typically signs of caregiver burnout and occur when you’re not managing your stress.
Self-care is essential for your health, and it also makes you a better caregiver.
If your loved one has Alzheimer’s or dementia, the amount of care they will require can take a toll on you. Fortunately, there are ways to manage and alleviate your stress.
You must forgive yourself for any negative feelings and emotions. It is normal to get upset and become frustrated. You are one person taking on considerable responsibility. Caring for a spouse or other loved one, especially one who requires a lot of care, would be stressful for anyone.
Focus on what you can control
There are going to be many things out of your control. Rather than stressing about them, find ways to cope, manage your expectations, and how you react when problems occur. Problem-solving is more beneficial for you and your loved one than wishing for more hours or how to fix the unfixable.
Speak with a therapist
Before your frustration turns into depression or resentment, reach out to a therapist. A therapist can offer you emotional support, teach you to process your feelings, and help you learn new ways to communicate with your loved one.
Physical activity can help you avoid health issues while releasing endorphins that help improve your mood. Even a 15-minute walk can be beneficial. If your senior loved one is capable, a brisk walk, yoga, or meditation can be great for their health as well.
Often, caregivers give up their favorite hobbies and friends to make more time for their loved one. While you may feel guilty taking time for yourself, it is essential to your health. You need to socialize with others and take the time to enjoy the things you love. Ask a family member to sit with your loved one while you go out for an hour or two.
If you feel yourself becoming overwhelmed, walk away. Make sure your loved one is safe, then step outside for a few minutes or more if you are able. Breathing in the fresh air and taking a step back can help you see things more clearly, and give you time to calm down.
Join a support group
A support group can offer you emotional support, advice, and friendship. If you don’t know any other caregivers, it can be difficult for family members or friends to understand the extent of what you are going through. Being around others who do understand can help reduce your stress and loneliness.
Focus on what is most meaningful
It’s easy to get caught up in the trap of perfection during the holidays. Especially when you’re already managing everyday caregiver stress.
The problem with the expectation of perfection is that it takes away from what matters the most. The holidays are not about who has the prettiest decorations or the perfect family photograph.
The holidays are for old traditions, new traditions, and making memories with the ones you love the most.
Take a moment to enjoy the holiday lights, the sound of your favorite seasonal tunes, or the aroma coming from your kitchen as you bake. When the holiday has ended, it will be the little things that you, your senior loved one, and your family members will remember the most.
As a caregiver, you are likely under enough stress, worrying about your loved ones health and memory disease. During this holiday season, try to take a deep breath and focus on the memories, not the illusion of the perfect scenario.
When it is time for long-time care
The Kensington Place Redwood City offers a beautiful assisted living community and two cozy memory care neighborhoods.
We know deciding when to transition your senior loved one to a community setting is difficult, especially over holidays. It’s Our Promise to love and care for your family as we do our own.
From our excellent dining services and life-enrichment activities to our rehabilitation and higher-level professional staff, your senior loved one can truly age in place. Contact us today if you would like to discuss your senior loved ones unique needs and what we have to offer them.