Navigating the Holidays as a Caregiver

Posted by Meghan Orner on December 09, 2016

Navigating the Holidays as a Caregiver

Although it’s called the most wonderful time of the year, no one can seem to escape feeling stressed at one point or another during the holiday season. This is especially true for caregivers. Many caregivers put pressure on themselves to find the perfect gift for everyone and fill the home with baked goods and decorations -- all while fulfilling their caregiver responsibilities.

While well-intentioned, this pressure causes many caregivers to experience mental, physical and emotional exhaustion, otherwise known as caregiver fatigue. Not only does this condition negatively impact your overall health, but it also directly affects your ability to care for your loved one.

Since this time of year is when you are most susceptible to caregiver fatigue, it’s essential that you are aware of the following symptoms of caregiver burnout:

  • Impatience
  • Irritability
  • Feelings of helplessness or hopelessness
  • Getting sick frequently
  • Neglecting your own needs  

Should you notice any of these warning signs of caregiver fatigue, managing holiday stress is the best thing you can do to care for yourself and your loved one.

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Tips for Managing Holiday Stress

Although preparing for the holidays can cut into the time you have as a caregiver, it is possible for you to fulfill your caregiver responsibilities and enjoy this special time of year with your loved ones. After all, that’s what the holiday season is all about!

Whether or not you’re experiencing caregiver fatigue, these tips for managing holiday stress will help you balance both of these time-consuming responsibilities:

1. Alter traditions -- or start new ones.

The thought of altering beloved traditions can be upsetting, but be realistic about what traditions you can reasonably do without stretching yourself too thin. Instead of going all out, simply put up a few decorations or bake a few treats that mean the most to you and your loved ones. Or, in light of all your additional caregiver responsibilities, cut down on shopping time this year by starting a Secret Santa or gift swap for your family. This way, you only have to buy one gift and everyone still gets something great.

You can even begin new traditions that allow you to have more time to yourself. Try video-chatting distant relatives instead of travelling, or order a catered meal rather than cooking large meals -- anything that will make your life as a caregiver easier.

2. Ignore the pressure to get everything done.

Before you try cramming everything into the holiday season, consider your needs and limitations first. Scaling back certainly doesn’t mean that you won’t enjoy the holidays as much. In fact, just the opposite is true -- if you try to do everything, you will only stress yourself out and, in most cases, experience caregiver fatigue.

Creating a to-do list in order of priority and keeping it out in the open, like on your refrigerator, is a great visual reminder to help you plan ahead and can help cut down on stress. Make your life as easy as possible by planning ahead and focusing solely on what is most important during the holidays: creating memories and spending time with your loved ones.

3. Acknowledge your emotions.

Watching a loved one grow older is never an easy thing. There are a variety of emotions you experience as a caregiver, ranging from anxiety, guilt, grief and even anger. While experiencing these emotions is completely normal, you must first acknowledge them so you can deal with them in a healthy way.

The best way to handle your emotions is by staying in the moment. Keep your mind from over-thinking your caregiver responsibilities by focusing on what you can do rather than what you cannot. Thinking negatively actually triggers your body’s stress response, so stay focused on the positives. You might also consider implementing a mindfulness meditation practice, which helps you acknowledge feelings and thoughts that you may not otherwise be dealing with properly. There have been a variety of health benefits associated with meditation as well, including combating caregiver fatigue.

4. Take advantage of caregiver support groups.

The holidays are a busy time of year for everyone, so your family members or friends may not be able to provide support when you need it most. That’s when caregiver support groups come in handy. In addition to providing you with a community of people who are experiencing the exact same thing as you, these support groups also allow you to speak your mind and receive encouragement from others.  

Once you find the caregiver support group that’s right for you, you will be less likely to experience caregiver fatigue not only during the holidays, but also year-round. Engaging in other stress-relieving activities like journaling, exercising or painting is another great way to keep your mind and body healthy.

5. Accept help.

Being a caregiver is very time-consuming, and there’s nothing wrong with seeking a break from your caregiver responsibilities. Ask other family members to share some of the responsibility during the holidays, or take advantage of respite care programs. Not only will accepting help lower your risk of experiencing caregiver fatigue, but it will also give you more time to enjoy the holiday season.  

Year-Round Relief From Caregiver Fatigue

Preparing for the holidays can be very time-consuming, so if you can’t always be there for your loved one this holiday season, ensure their safety with a Medical Guardian medical alert device. Not only will your loved one have access to immediate help every day of the year, but you can enjoy the peace of mind that comes with knowing that our 24/7 monitoring center will alert you of any emergency that occurs. It is a gift that will help both yourself and your loved one.


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