While caring for an aging parent or loved one can be tremendously rewarding, it can also be physically, financially, and emotionally stressful, especially during the holidays.  If you’ve taken on a caregiving role in your family, you’re likely dealing with a new level of responsibility. Caregivers often report feelings of anxiety, loss of sleep, and diminished personal health. Help from family, friends, and professionals and other community resources can be critical, especially when an aging loved one has dementia, experiences frequent medical crises, is physically disabled, lives at a distance, or has few supports.

Taking good care of yourself is the first order of business for getting through the holidays. Perhaps scaling back on shopping, decorating, baking, or holiday gatherings makes sense for you this year and lessens the stress. Remember that:

  • Taking breaks and staying healthy will help you avoid feeling burned out. Make time for regular exercise, healthy eating, adequate sleep, and activities that are enjoyable and relaxing. Too often caregivers put their own needs last and then feel unappreciated and overburdened.
  • No one is a perfect caregiver. Don’t set unrealistic expectations for yourself and have patience with your loved one. When you feel frustrated or overwhelmed, take a deep breath and step away for a moment until you feel calmer.
  • There are things you can’t control. Your loved one may have a health crisis, a family member may be difficult, or other things may happen that throw a monkey wrench in your holiday plans. Try to take one day at a time, focus on the positives whenever you can, and remember that what you can control is how you choose to react to people and situations. Try to keep your sense of humor.
  • When the going gets tough, the tough ask for help. Don’t be shy about asking for and accepting help from others. Even family members who live at a distance can help out with tasks such as keeping track of finances and appointments, making phone calls, and finding respite help and other community resources.

What really matters during the holidays is your peace of mind and spending time with people you care about. You may need to let go of old traditions, start some new ones, and enjoy the simple things that help you and your loved one feel comfortable during the holiday season.