How Caregivers Can Care for Themselves During the Holidays

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The holidays are supposed to bring lots of joy, but they can also be stressful. This stress is compounded if you are a caregiver for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Your life already includes a lot of challenges as you care for your family member, but now you may find yourself having to schedule family travel, attend holiday events, buy gifts, and help your loved one navigate family visits. Caregiver burnout is always a risk, but that risk can spike during the holiday madness. Let’s look at ways you can care for yourself during these “holly jolly” times.

Recognizing the Risk of Caregiver Burnout

Caregiver burnout is a risk at any time of the year, especially for those caring for family members with Alzheimer’s and dementia. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, caregivers provided an estimated 18.2 billion hours of care in 2016, and 35% of caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s or dementia reported that their health declined as a result of their caregiver responsibilities.

It takes a uniquely strong person to face Alzheimer’s and dementia. Your loved one may require years of care that will only increase in severity over time. Additionally, your loved one may not fully appreciate your efforts or be able to thank you for your sacrifice.

As your loved one’s care needs grow, you may find yourself feeling more isolated and anxious. Other common symptoms of caregiver burnout include:

  • Depression and increased irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Feelings of resentment toward your loved one
  • Neglecting your other relationships
  • Losing interest in hobbies and previous pleasures
  • Turning to negative coping mechanisms, like eating and smoking
  • Lack of energy and motivation
  • Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness

If you are already experiencing some or all of these symptoms, the holidays are likely to worsen them. Even though you have absolutely no energy, you’ve somehow got to get your mother ready for your sister’s big family dinner and then chaperone her during the event. Your son and his family are also coming for a visit, so you have to clean the house and buy gifts for your grandchildren! How are you going to do that when you can’t leave Mom at home by herself? If you bring her to the busy mall, she could wander off again!

Before you find yourself drowning in these kinds of stressful thoughts, it’s time to give yourself a gift this holiday season. To beat caregiver burnout, here’s what you can do.

1.      Acknowledge Your Stress and Give Yourself Permission to Be Happy

There’s a reason you are a caregiver. It’s because you have a personality that always puts the needs of others before your own. Now, however, you’ve got to push past that selfless instinct and acknowledge that you can’t always handle everything on your own. Know that it is completely normal to fee

l stressed and overwhelmed as a caregiver. It’s okay to feel resentment or to wish your family member was well. Next, give yourself permission to be happy. Know that you deserve to have your own life, to enjoy hobbies, and to be pampered.

2.      Speak Out

Let your other family members know what you are going through. You are not alone! The holidays often bring family members into town, so sit down with your closest family members, friends, or neighbors and vent. Just speaking about your troubles can make you feel worlds better, but that’s not enough…

3.      Ask for Help

You shouldn’t have to care for your loved one all by yourself. Don’t be afraid to request help. Maybe that means asking your brother to watch Mom for one day a week so you can have the day to yourself. If your brother lives out of town, ask if he could help you cover the costs for a home health aide or adult daycare. Your friends and neighbors may be also able to help. Ask them to check in on you or to visit regularly so you don’t feel so alone. The people in your life want to help you, but they won’t know you’re in need unless you ask.

4.      Pamper Yourself

Now that you’ve acknowledged that you deserve to have your own life, find a way to pamper yourself this holiday season. Give yourself a day at the spa. Buy that purse you’ve had your eye on. Treating yourself doesn’t have to be expensive. It can be as simple as taking a walk in the park each morning or going to the movies once a week. Since you’ve already asked your family and friends for help, recruit them to help you take time off for yourself!

5.      Consider Moving  Your Loved One to a Memory Care Facility

As much as you love your family member with dementia or Alzheimer’s, you won’t be good to anybody, including yourself, if you are suffering from severe caregiver burnout. This type of burnout becomes more prevalent as your loved one’s condition worsens and their care requirements increase. At some point, you simply won’t be able to provide the care your loved one needs. That’s not a failure; that’s simply a reality of Alzheimer’s and dementia. If this day is approaching, it’s time to sit down with your family to discuss the possibility of moving your loved one into a memory care facility. The holidays may actually be a good time for this discussion, as you may have family in town who can evaluate your loved one.

The holidays are supposed to be a happy time, so don’t let your caregiver duties overwhelm you. You truly deserve lots of love and good cheer! If you need support now or at any point throughout the year, we invite you to our caregiver support group. The group is free to attend and is open to the general public. Sign up for our next meeting!


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