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Our culture tends to encourage an unrealistic image of perfection when it comes to the holiday season and many caregivers can feel flat out overwhelmed in the face of the holiday season. Unfortunately for many caregivers, this time of year can be less about the perfect family gatherings and goodwill, and more about a rise in stress, anger, and frustration. In those cases, the perfect Christmases seen in our favorite holiday Hallmark flicks may leave us with unrealistic expectations where we risk magnifying negative experiences and minimizing the joyful ones.

However, for caregivers and those they care for, the holidays can be a unique opportunity for added connection to family and friends and strengthen communication. Although it may be difficult to know who to talk to about your responsibilities as a caregiver and how much to share, honest communication about your reality can give others who love you the opportunity to provide assistance and support. This can even provide some relief from feelings of isolation or lack of appreciation you may have felt.
Take a little of the burden from your shoulders this holiday season. Here are some tips to make the holidays more manageable and joyful as a caregiver.

Adjust Your Expectations
High expectations of perfect moments can set the stage for some big disappointments. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself for your holiday to look or feel just how you think it should! Be honest with yourself about any limitations or needs that you or those you care for may have, such as keeping a schedule. Let yourself be flexible if something unexpected happens and your plans need to change.

Look for Opportunities to Communicate
Talking about the difficulties your loved one is experiencing is not pleasant or easy. With lots of downtime during this season, try to find ways to listen to their needs. You can find ways to connect and let them know how special it is to have them in your home during the holidays. This is also a good time to get the family involved so that your loved one feels included and enjoyed rather than a burden to your home.

Equally important is the chance to communicate the status of your loved one’s health to other family and friends who may want to know their situation. One tactical way to go about this is writing a brief note about your loved one’s condition and including it in a holiday greeting card. This is a great way to inform extended relatives about what’s happening in the caregiving situation. If the note is written in an informative and encouraging way, (don’t guilt trip anybody) family members may express the desire to help assist you. At least they will be aware and have a better idea of the effort you are putting into opening your home as a caregiver.

Manage Your Own Stress Outlets
You will be tested, make no mistake about that. Luckily you know what things help you to release stress and keep yourself composed. When you feel overtired, stressed out, or just unappreciated, turn to the things that help keep things in perspective. Such exercises include:
-A gratitude journal. Focus on the good in life! Gratitude can improve physical, emotional, and social well-being, as well as increased self-esteem and greater optimism and happiness.
-Taking time to reflect on the situation of your loved one and how difficult their situation may be for themselves.
-Going for a drive
-Taking a walk
-Calling a friend or loved one
Try your best to incorporate these activities regularly into your day to help you keep a balanced life. You’ve got this under control!

Make Things Simple
The holidays are already jammed packed with more parties, visits, and Christmas movies than you can handle. Don’t put the pressure on yourself to be present at every little event throughout the entire month. You are a caregiver and people will certainly understand you wanted to come to their event, even if you couldn’t make it this year. Keep things simple but cutting down on things like traveling, elaborate meal plans, and hosting hoards of people as you are currently occupied with hosting your loved one full time. Sadly, some of your holiday traditions might need to be altered but this will give you the opportunity to create new ones at home.

Share the Load
You want to make sure things are just right for you and your family, but that might result in you taking on too much work. Employing the help of extended family for a few hours here and there can be a huge help for your endurance and psyche. Plus it gives that family member a chance to spend quality time with your loved one. If extended family is not available to help you, hiring someone to assist for a few hours can be a huge relief. You need some YOU time. It will help you clear your head which will make the home environment much more pleasant. When you’re in a good place, you can offer your best self to help out around the holidays. Go have fun with your spouse and/or kids and try to relax.

With planning and preparing, you and your loved ones can create enjoyable moments together and maybe even create new family traditions! Some caregivers have found positive experiences in describing a little bit about the person they care for and their condition within their holiday greeting card for relatives. This may be a non-threatening way to update those who may be more removed from your situation. As you try not to be too guilt-inducing in your tone, this may help some family members to become more involved or at least more informed of your efforts.

One of the most important tips is not being afraid to ask for help. We recognize there is no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to health care. Primrose offers home health care, including skilled nursing, physical therapy, occupational and speech therapy, and home health aides. We ensure that our patient’s needs are met. For more information, visit www.primrosecare.com/