The holidays are ideally a time to connect as a family and celebrate traditions, however, this time of year can be challenging for many families, especially caregivers. While the holidays can be stressful for people caring for a loved one with a terminal illness, they can also be the most rewarding times to express your emotions and share memories.
We’ve compiled a list of “holiday do’s” for caregivers that we hope help make your holidays a little less stressful and a little more joyful
Let it flow
- Do allow your emotions to flow. Accept and don’t be ashamed of whatever emotions may arise at the prospect of not having your loved one at the same event next year. By the same token, please don’t feel guilty as you laugh whole-heartedly at the re-telling of funny family stories.
- Do allow the person in your care to freely express their emotions as well. They are fully justified in feeling whatever they are feeling at this stage of their journey. They may be overjoyed to spend time with a relative they haven’t seen for years and may cry the next minute at the prospect of not seeing their college-aged grandchildren again.
Let it go
- Do let some things go this year…or revise them a bit. Ask someone else to host Thanksgiving this year. You don’t have to put out all 78 Santas and wrap lights around the front trees. Ten Santas and lights around the door is more than enough this year!
- Do delegate holiday tasks that you may have taken care of in the past. Ask a neighbor or your grandkids to hang up those lights around the door. Your brother can make the fudge this year. You already have a full plate. You deserve to enjoy the holidays, too.
- Do allow yourself to miss a few family activities if that alleviates some stress. You don’t have to participate in everything. Check in with the person in your care and see which activities are important to them.
- Do allow yourself to not feel bad about arriving late or leaving early to any family functions.
Share and record
- Do tell the wonderful and silly stories about your loved one that are treasures to share.
- Encourage your family to listen to (and record!) the stories your loved one may want to share.
- Do consider compiling recordings of each guest sharing a favorite memory into a video to share with your loved one. Enlist help for this – a great job for tech-savvy grandkids!
Embrace the moment
- Do take lots of photos and/or videos of your family celebrating with the person in your care.
- Do cherish the small, intimate moments that happen during the larger celebrations.
It’s important to care for yourself and keep your limits in mind during the holidays. Be gentle with yourself and don’t do more than you know you can handle. Let yourself feel the feelings, don’t hold them in for “a more appropriate” time. And don’t be afraid to ask for help. Others should be glad to be there for helping with tasks or just for comfort.
Happy Holidays from our family to yours.