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Holiday Stress Busters for Family Caregivers

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With the holidays just around the corner, the anxiety of this busy season might soon be taking a toll. After all, you are barely keeping up with a normal routine of work, friends and family caregiving, right? Throw in everything the holiday season entails, such as shopping, baking and parties, and you may already anticipate feeling overwhelmed.

Check out these positive ways to keep holiday stress at bay, from professionals at the Home Instead Center for Successful Aging.

Be flexible: The holidays are steeped in personal, family and religious traditions. That’s a lot of responsibility for family caregivers. As a family caregiver, ask yourself: “What is important to continue, and what can we adapt or let go?”

Take care of yourself: The holidays are steeped in personal, family and religious traditions. That’s a lot of responsibility for family caregivers. As a family caregiver, ask yourself: “What is important to continue, and what can we adapt or let go?”

Communicate your needs: Difficult family dynamics can take center stage during the holidays. If family members can no longer continue their traditional holiday roles, that may cause conflict. Communicating is the best way to help smooth out problems and avert new ones.

Look for comic relief: Nothing lifts the spirits like a good laugh. New movies abound during the holidays. Find a comedy and gather your friends for an afternoon or evening at the movies. Or watch a well-liked show at home. Popcorn required!

Plan ahead: Many people start holiday shopping weeks in advance. Why not approach holiday preparations in much the same way? Before the season arrives, start making a list of who can do what, so that no one is overwhelmed with work.

Make time for your traditions: No doubt, you have carried over family traditions. But you’re just as likely to have generated new family holiday activities. Don’t let those go by the wayside during the busy holiday season. It can lead to conflict in your own family.

Be resourceful: Take the offer for help. If someone wants to help, say “yes” to that casserole or an offer to run an errand. Saying “yes” to help can also mean taking advantage of professional in-home senior care services. Learn about five home care services that can help save your sanity this holiday season.

Too Much of a Good Thing Can Add to the Stress
An older adult also can feel overwhelmed during the holidays with too much of a good thing.

Too much activity: Some conditions of aging, such as dementia, may cause agitation in older adults. Tune into the amount of activity that surrounds a senior during the holidays and adapt as necessary.

Too many unrealistic expectations: Families often function best when they are following traditional roles at the holidays. However, that isn’t always realistic. If your senior has suffered a health decline, she may not be up to the family get-together. Try to get family members on board to set realistic expectations.

Too much noise: Hearing impairment can make it difficult for older adults to understand conversations. If you’re hosting a holiday party, take Grandpa into a quiet room and ask family to visit him individually so he can get the most from conversations.

Too many visitors: Seniors with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia could react negatively to the presence of too many people. Take care not to turn a positive holiday party into a negative event for the older loved one in the family by subjecting your senior to too many visitors.

These tips can help make your holidays extra special this year by avoiding the unnecessary stress the season may bring.

Last revised: December 6, 2018

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Thoughts and stories from others
  1. December 24, 2012 at 8:54 pm | Posted by george hodgman

    My mother is 90 years old. She is struggling with dementia and I have been staying with her almost fulltime for a year. I am with her all the time. She is getting worse. She makes these sounds all the time--utterances, whimpers, whines. She cannot control it, but it is making me feel so crazy, sad, angry, awful. She is increasingly hard to manage, increasingly less lucid but attempts to be more dominant and is sometimes angry. Tonight at church, a baby cried out and she screamed, "Shut up." I think I am losing my mind. I am an only child, alone with this.


  2. December 18, 2012 at 11:56 am | Posted by patricia

    Well, am taking care of my 92 year old mom who took a fall,had to have replacement surgery and also has dementia,all I can say is this. I love my mom, I can't ever replace her,its Christmas in this house as well, we'll have the same kind of Christmas she prepared for us,with her children,grandchildren,great grandchildren and friends. My mom always said,what you don't do this year, do it next year. I can't tell you how great full I am having been given this opportunity To give back just a little of what my mother gave to me all 59 years of my life. Merry Christmas and love to you all.


  3. December 10, 2012 at 9:55 am | Posted by Lara smith

    I am a caregiver for a lady I had never known till now. I have been with her for 3 years. The changes I have witnessed have been jaw dropping. Seems so strange how this disease works. It is stressful some days I want to run out the door and never look back. Most days I cry because of her decline in health. I sure hope that someday there will be a cure or a least something to help her with the mood swings. Is that normal? Thanks


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