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Family Caregiving and the Holidays

Bob Edwards and Amy Goyer discuss how to make it through the season with more joy and less stress

Take on Today Podcast


Bob Edwards: Hello I'm Bob Edwards with an AARP take on today.

Last week, a federal judge in Texas ruled the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional. Supporters of the health care law immediately said they would appeal the decision. The law will remain in place while the appeal continues. The ruling came on the day before the 2018 federal Marketplace open enrollment for coverage in 2019 ended.

In a statement, AARP Executive Vice President Nancy LeaMond called the ruling a profound blow to millions of Americans. She also said it threatens to cut off life-saving health care services millions of older Americans rely on including its protections against charging older Americans an age tax and protections for people with preexisting health conditions.

LeaMond said, if upheld, this decision will throw both the U.S. economy and health care system into turmoil because millions of people will be cut off from health care coverage and essential health benefits. AARP will continue fighting in both Congress and the courts on behalf of older Americans and their ability to obtain high-quality, affordable health insurance.

Bob Edwards: The holidays can be a joyful time when spirits are lighter. It feels good to enjoy time with loved ones and celebrate with family traditions, but for many caregivers the holidays can also bring added stress. And an already busy caregiver may find there's even more to do during the holidays.

According to an AARP family caregiving survey, nearly 70% of caregivers say it's emotionally stressful to care for their loved ones during the holiday season.

Joining us today is Amy Goyer an AARP caregiving expert to provide tips to help you make it through the holiday season with more joy and less stress.

Bob Edwards: Thanks for being here.

Amy Goyer: Thank you great to be here.

Bob Edwards: I think we've all had dinner conversations take a turn for the worse what advice would you give to caregivers as they gather for the holiday meal especially if they're already feeling stressed?

Amy Goyer: We want to have realistic expectations for these holiday meals. We don't want to bring up the hot topics that everybody goes off on and cause strife at the holiday dinner table so try to be appreciative of the loved ones who do show up for the holidays. If you're a caregiver it's a good idea to show appreciation but not get into the, gee why haven't you been here I'm burned out why aren't you doing more for mom or dad?

Bob Edwards: The holidays seem to be a time when we notice loved ones might need more help and care tell me about that.

Amy Goyer: Often we don't visit our older loved ones terribly often so over the holidays we gather and we may notice some changes. We may notice things like mail piling up or they're not taking care of themselves, their personal care is changing, their clothes are dirty, or the house is dirty, yard work etc., so this is a time when a lot of times family feel like oh my gosh we need to do something more let's talk about this. Sometimes it's a not the best time to talk about it but it's a good time to observe.

Bob Edwards: Well I was going to ask now are the holidays a good time to discuss caregiving for a loved one?

Amy Goyer: For some families that’s the only time they're together and so they really want to have those discussions. I recommend that if you can just schedule of time in the future to have one of those more intense conversations it's a good idea use the holidays as that time to observe, if this is the only time you can do it then set aside a specific time for it so it doesn't infiltrate your whole holiday celebration. Maybe go out to lunch, maybe the adult children go out to lunch together and talk about what can we do more to help mom and dad more.

Bob Edwards: So what's the approach?

Amy Goyer: The key approach if you're going to be talking to your siblings let's say about care for your parents is we're all in this together, this is a team, our common goal is for mom and dad to be as independent as possible for as long as possible, we're going to approach this with love and an attitude of support, how can we divide up the help that they need as evenly as possible and not have it all fall on one of the siblings?

Bob Edwards: And what are some of the things that friends and family can do to help family caregivers during the holidays?

Amy Goyer: One of these things our survey and information always shows is that caregivers really appreciate someone to talk to over the holidays. It can be a very stressful time, it can be a higher level of depression, isolation when everyone else is out doing holiday activities you're stuck at home caregiving and so I really suggest that people offer just to listen. Give them a call on a regular basis, stop by and have sit down have a cup of cocoa or bring a meal. Also practical support because caregivers would love to celebrate the holidays also but they don't have a lot of time so maybe you provide some help for their personal life so they have time freed up for holiday activities or you provide respite care for their loved ones and give them a break. If you can't provide that care of yourself, pay for it, offer to do that.

Bob Edwards: Any tips to help those currently family member caregivers manage that stress?

Amy Goyer: That’s the tough thing for family caregivers. Really key to watch for signs of burnout. So if you're wanting to sleep all the time or you're not sleeping at all, if you're crying a lot more, if you're exhausted. One of the key things is if you just don't care, that's a really big sign especially at the holiday is that something's off and that's a red flag. So the first thing you have to do on your list is take care of yourself.

I look at it like my car, my car can't run on empty and neither can I so I have to do things on an ongoing basis to fill my tank and we all know what that is for ourselves. It might be getting more sleep, it might be exercise, it might be time with friends, it might be time away from caregiving and that is really crucial to have that as well. So do that, think about cutting back on your holiday activities this year. You can do just the things that are most meaningful, what's most meaningful to you and for your loved ones that you're taking care of and that's the bottom line is create some treasured memories and just appreciate the time with your loved ones.

Bob Edwards: And what advice would you give to those visiting relatives needing care and relatives giving care as they gather for the holiday meal?

Amy Goyer: If you're going to visit loved ones and let's say you have a sibling who's more nearby and providing more of the care, the last thing you want to do is come in and start criticizing what they're doing. You may not feel like it's criticizing, you may just pointing things out, oh mom needs some new clothes, mom needs that, this isn't happening you know, and be aware of how that feels to the person receiving it. They want help, offer help rather than criticism. So you might say, I can see that mom is needing a little more help I bet you're exhausted, what can we do to help support you or help provide more care for mom? And if you're visiting your loved ones who are care recipients, the key thing is to be respectful again their independence is everyone's goal, so look at the ways that you can provide that kind of support for them to be as independent as possible.

Bob Edwards: I imagine the post holidays can leave caregivers feeling tired or lonely, how can visiting family stay connected after the holidays and continue to show support?

Amy Goyer: It’s key to ask what is needed. Don’t think that you know, ask the caregivers in your family what would be most helpful? I used to have my sister call every night. She lived long distance couldn't provide a lot of help but she called my parents every night and that was a great contribution because she asked me what can be done? So ask the caregivers what would be most helpful for them. Can you help out financially? And is there a good way to stay in touch, should we start doing video chats? One of the best things you can do is schedule your next visit while you're there. It’s something for the caregivers and loved ones to look forward to. they know when you're going to come and what kind of relief that you're going to provide and you know just make a commitment to stay closer in touch and you can be a cheerleader to those caregivers in your family and be the one that gets them support and reinforcement for what they're doing over the long haul.

Bob Edwards: Tell me about your book.

Amy Goyer: My book is called Juggling Life, Work, and Caregiving. It’s a practical guide for family caregivers. It covers everything from kind of assessing the situation for yourself and for your loved ones, managing care for yourself as your caregiving, there's a whole chapter on that because it's so key, health issues, financial issues, legal issues, caring for a loved one at home or in a facility. Just because someone's in a facility doesn't mean you don't still have a big role. And then I also cover end-of-life and life after caregiving, which is a big challenge for a lot of people. So it's just a very practical, I've been a caregiver my whole adult life so I know you don't have time to read a book that isn't helpful, so it's really very navigable for caregivers.

Bob Edwards: And where can we find that?

Amy Goyer: You can find that via the AARP website at or you can go on Amazon or Barnes & Noble's.

Bob Edwards: Thank you so much.

Amy Goyer: Great to be here.

Bob Edwards: For more advice and tips visit


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Your zip code matters, mostly where it comes to the local weather and car theft and vandalism rates. As does what you do for a living. Some states allow car insurance discounts for certain occupations like first responders, educators, medical professionals and those in the military. 

Here’s some good news. It’s a total myth that car color will affect your insurance rates.

So that red car you’ve always wanted? Go for it.

For more, visit Become a subscriber. Be sure to rate our podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, and other podcast apps. Thanks for listening, I'm Bob Edwards.

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The holidays can be a joyful time when spirits are lighter, but for many family caregivers the holidays can also bring added stress. Tune in to hear host Bob Edwards and Amy Goyer discuss how to help family caregivers make it through the holiday season with more joy and less stress.

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