For some family caregivers, the holidays can be a joyful time when spirits are lighter. It feels good to care for loved ones and enjoy time together, celebrating with family traditions. But for many the holidays also bring added stress — an already busy caregiver finds there’s even more to do during the holidays. Something’s gotta give! It’s OK to give yourself a bit of a break this year. Here are some tips to help you make it through the holiday season with more joy and less stress.
1. Focus on what is most meaningful
Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP the Magazine.
As much as we’d like to create the perfect holiday experience, remember that perfection is not the goal of the holidays — meaning and joy are. There are many factors we can’t control when it comes to our loved ones’ health and abilities, so adjust your view of a successful holiday. Talk about prioritizing the holiday activities that hold the deepest meaning. Focus on what feels necessary to produce a holiday feeling and create good memories.
2. Simplify your holiday activities
If going all out for the holidays will push you over the edge this year, remember that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. If you can’t put out all of your decorations, choose a few items that are most significant. You might ask a friend to decorate, or pay someone to do so; you can always rearrange decorations once they are out. If going to all religious services feels like too much, choose one service that means the most. If sending greeting cards is too time-consuming, try sending e-greetings. Many family caregivers also adjust the location of celebrations or postpone holiday travel to accommodate loved ones in their care.
3. Start new traditions
Instead of focusing on losses and what you and/or your loved ones aren’t able to do this year, try doing something new. If your care recipient has trouble getting around, drive through a holiday light display or watch a holiday concert on TV. If you can't make it to a holiday gathering, have a video chat. Are your loved ones unable to participate in decorating this year? Invite a friend over to help, with your loved ones nearby to watch and cheer you on. Start a home holiday movie night tradition — or watch old home movies so everyone can participate.
For more on caregiving, visit AARP's Care Guides.