Caregiving for your loved one during the holidays

A caregiver is simply defined as a person who gives help and protection to someone.  Although caregiving can be a rewarding experience, it can also be challenging, especially around the holidays.  This holiday season, we want to celebrate caregivers and share some helpful tips, as caregiving can be the most gracious and wonderful present that your loved one could ever receive.

Preparing for the holidays can be stressful and tiring even under the best of circumstances. However, with acceptance and planning, they can be sources of great pleasure. Traditional holiday activities, which have been celebrated every year, may have to be changed to some degree.  It is important to recognize and adjust expectations, which may include starting some new traditions.  For example, if you typically host family gatherings, suggest that someone else host this year. If your home is the most convenient for you, your loved one and your family, enlist the help of friends and relatives.  From decorating and wrapping to meal preparation and cleaning, the holidays can be more enjoyable when you can spread the workload.  Try to maintain a sense of familiarity for the one you are caring for and include them in your holiday preparations as well.

Only when we first help ourselves can we effectively help others. As a caregiver, it is important to cultivate and sustain a support system. Making lists of specific tasks that your support system can help you with enables them to tap into their strengths and skill sets while assisting you.  When someone asks; “Is there anything you need?” be prepared to reply “Yes” and offer some ways they can help you.  This may include picking up holiday items, shopping for groceries, shoveling snow or spending time with your loved one so you can run errands or exercise.  Exercise is even more important as it gives you a break, combats depression and helps you maintain your overall health and well-being.  And don’t forget to schedule regular check-ups with your health care provider(s) for preventative care.  Making healthy choices and taking care of you will help you succeed as a caregiver, not only during the busy holiday season, but throughout the year.

Setting limits is important and may include saying “No” to requests that are too draining. Remember this is your holiday too.  Let your family know that a little quiet time for yourself could be a gift beyond measure. Something this simple can be very refreshing and help you enjoy the holidays that much more.

After celebrating the holidays, take a moment to reflect on your time with family and friends and consider reaching out to them throughout the year to help you in your caregiving role.  You can also attend workshops, support groups, and visit caregiving websites.  These resources are not just for emotional support, but will provide you with helpful tips that will lead you on the path to success on your caregiving journey.

 Cornerstone VNA is a non-profit organization providing home, health and hospice care to people of all ages living within thirty-five communities in Rockingham, Strafford, Belknap and Carroll Counties in New Hampshire and York County in Maine.  Cornerstone VNA provides support for caregivers through their Life Care-Private Duty program as well as through their Caregivers Connect Educational Programs, Companion Volunteer Program, and Bereavement Support Groups.  For more information, call 800-691-1133 x108 or visit www.cornerstonevna.org/caregivers-connect.

This article was written by Cornerstone VNA and included in the December 2016 edition of Seacoast Seniors, a publication by Seacoast Media Group (Link to article on seacoastonline.com)

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