senior health

Caregiving During the Holidays: How to Deal With the Stress

family dressed up for christmas

The holidays are meant to be a time of togetherness and celebration, but if you're in the midst of caring for a chronically ill older relative, you may just see them as another source of stress in your life. But it doesn't have to be that way.

With an adjusted perspective and support from others, you can enjoy the holiday season, even if it means modifying your traditions.

In the past, family celebrations may have been an affair that took weeks  of extensive preparation. But what's truly important this time of year is being together, rather than your feast being worthy of a magazine spread or all of your decorations having been made by hand.

Now may be a good time to adjust your expectations for this year's holidays. Think about what's reasonable for you to accomplish over the next couple of weeks, and don't plan for much more than that. In fact, you may find that a small, intimate gathering is more meaningful than festivities involving everyone you know, which tend to get overwhelming even under normal circumstances.

Take advantage of shortcuts, prepared foods or a friend's offer to share cooking. Consider what you might outsource and what you don’t want to give up. Choose your signature, favorite or most meaningful dish to craft or create yourself and share, purchase or let others help with the rest of the holiday meals.

If cooking is pleasurable or important to you, then stick to this tradition. You can invite your elder to join you in making this a shared, pleasurable activity. Perhaps your loved one could help mix batter, decorate cookies, sift or measure ingredients.

You can also put on your favorite holiday music, reminisce and trim the tree, make garlands or wrap presents together. Sharing a pleasurable activity brings you close and takes the focus off illness-related tasks and problem-solving.

When preparing for parties or dinners, try to stay in the moment. You are still together as family to enjoy a holiday season. Take time to express gratitude, enjoy moments and clarify what's important in your relationship. Decide to make this holiday season the best for now, even if you don't have time or energy for perfect or  elaborate celebrations.