Love is in the air … leprechauns will be leaping … and a rabbit will soon be delivering chocolate eggs. Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, and Easter are the first holidays of each new year. Normally very joyous days, these holidays can make life even more difficult for family caregivers. Holidays (along with possible birthdays and/or anniversaries) are often celebrated with family but a caregiver’s family can become dramatically different. Without the presence or active participation of parents, these formerly “special days” can become stressful for family caregivers.
Therefore, it is increasingly important for a caregiver to look after him/herself when holidays and/or anniversaries approach. As a former co-caregiver myself, I still can struggle with these days. Christmas seems to be continually difficult (if not impossible at some moments) as it seems we are inundated with retailer’s sales messages which can serve as painful reminders that our lives have forever changed. I had become a co-caregiver for my own parents (my mother had Parkinson’s disease and Leukemia while my father had Alzheimer’s disease – Dad reached the point when he could not even remember Christmas or the meaning of the day). These sales messages (along with other advertising) can become more evident around other holidays as well.
By looking after him/herself, a caregiver must take personal breaks away from his/her regular caregiving duties. It is simply not effective nor healthy for someone to try to multitask too many jobs while trying to cope with a loved one’s major illness or health concern. Even if you do take these so-called “respite breaks” now, make a point of scheduling these or having another family member remind you about taking some time off around holidays so that you won’t become buried.
While I am all for celebrating holidays and/or anniversaries, the fact is that these days can become much different days for current caregivers. In addition to continuing to help and support an aging loved one (and manage everything that needs to be done), a caregiver may feel obligated to shop for gifts, visit with others, and/or generally feel more festive and cheerful. Finding the time and/or motivation to do so can prove to be difficult and rightly so. Family caregivers can already be run off of their feet and can be facing the eventual loss of a loved one.
Respite breaks (around holidays and at other times of the year as well) allow caregivers to take that breather, rest, relax, and then return to their roles far more effectively. Find an hour per week to do something you personally enjoy and/or find relaxing.
It’s easy to understand how holidays can control a caregiver; however, by incorporating respite breaks into your own life, you can better control these holidays. Please take those breaks often and never feel guilty for doing so.
Please watch for my further discussion and tips on caregiver self-care in the months ahead on The Caregiver Network.