Holidays like Christmas, July 4th and Thanksgiving can bring about anticipation and excitement, but for caregivers, they can also bring about difficult circumstances and conflicted feelings. Caregiving comes with many responsibilities, a unique set of challenges, and a variety of complex emotions. It’s common for caregivers to feel like no one else understands their situation, and that can lead to them feeling isolated and overwhelmed. There are ways to ease the physical and emotional load that holiday seasons and other busy times bring, and one of those is connecting with existing support networks.
Calling on family and close friends
Even if they aren’t regular caregivers themselves, family members and close friends can be solid sources of support during busy times. Consider one of the following approaches to enlisting their help:
- Ask family members or close friends for help with caregiving responsibilities to give you a break. This can be especially helpful if you need to do shopping or run errands in advance of a family gathering. Asking for help from family members or friends who are visiting from far away can provide the added benefit of giving them an opportunity to contribute to your loved one’s care since it can be difficult for them to find ways to do so from a distance.
- to family or friends to allow you to focus more on caregiving. If you’re not comfortable asking others to provide care for your loved one, ask them instead to help with other day-to-day responsibilities such as errands, laundry, and cleaning. Taking these tasks off your to-do list can lighten your load and reserve your time and energy for caregiving.
- Ask family and friends to help you identify ways to overcome limitations you may have. Will adding extra tasks to your list during busy seasons (e.g., making and bringing your usual dish to the family gathering) bring about stress or anxiety that you can’t handle right now? If so, have honest conversations with family and friends about your limitations and ask them to help you identify solutions (e.g., having someone else make your usual dish this year or ordering it from a store or restaurant).
- See if family and friends can accompany you to caregiver support events. Connecting with other caregivers is an important source of support at any time of year, but it can be especially helpful during holidays and other busy times. It can be helpful for family members or friends to come along to caregiving workshops or support groups, as it will not only help you to have a loved one present, but it can also help your loved one better understand what you’re dealing with as a caregiver.
When more is needed
In complex care situations and other circumstances, it is necessary to call on support networks outside of family and friends. If you need additional support during the holidays or other times of year, consider the following resources:
- A geriatric care manager. These professionals, usually licensed nurses or social workers are trained in caring for older adults and act as private advocates and guides for family members concerned about their loved ones. They generally serve clients and families whose incomes are too high to qualify for publicly financed services.
- Palliative and hospice care. Whereas palliative care is broader and can be utilized at any time during a life-limiting illness, hospice is a philosophy of care that seeks to provide comfort and maximize a patient’s quality of life as they near the end of life. These services are beneficial for both the patient and their caregivers.
- Support groups and online discussion groups. If you need a place to connect with other caregivers, share more about your unique circumstances, and get helpful advice, look for an in-person or online support group. Banner Health offers a variety of classes and support groups for caregivers, and AARP offers a Family Caregivers Discussion Group on Facebook and an online community forum for caregivers.
To begin the process of connecting with resources on a local level, contact your loved one’s health provider or review these state-specific resource guides from AARP.