You’re already overwhelmed by the pressures of caregiving. Now add the holidays. It can be a bit much—stress times two. So how, then, do you make family get togethers more enjoyable? You do your homework.
Here are a few simple assignments (they don’t take long, really!):
1. Be honest and face the facts. Discussing a loved one’s changing needs or decline is never a comfortable conversation. But it’s not going to get better on its own. You might want to approach one family member first rather than them en masse. Pose a question: “How do you think Dad is doing?” “Did you notice Mom has a lot of unopened mail?” “Is this the best possible situation for them now?” “Should we be thinking of something else?” You don’t want to make the holidays only about these conversations, but you need to address it. Or, if the family isn’t in the same place for a sit-down, take notes on what you’ve observed and follow up later. You’ll feel relieved , once you share your thoughts, hear others’, and start creating an action plan.
2. Put that hostility in check. While you may feel resentment towards a certain family member who “forgets” to pull his or her weight, don’t make a scene during the holidays. If humanly possible, bury the hatchet so your family will have fond memories, not those of a blow out. If you think it will be constructive, clear the air before you get together. Rather than make it a you vs. then, collectively brainstorm.
3. Do a dress rehearsal. Whether you are hosting this year’s festivity or headed to someone else’s home, preparing your loved one for the big day or longer is crucial. Talk to them about what you’re planning before hand and get their input. Can they help with decorations, make their favorite soup, or act as a sous-chef, giving you instructions on how you can make it? People like to feel they’re making a contribution and are needed, not just on the receiving end.
4. Expect the unexpected. The holidays can be overwhelming for everyone, especially you. If it makes sense, keep the plan simple. Be flexible. That original plan may need to change depending on how your loved one is feeling and reacting to the situation.
5. Take a breather. And, don’t forget some deep, relaxation breathing. Try to do something special for yourself before the big day(s). Spring for a facial or a blowdry? Go for a hike? Take a nap? Read a couple of chapters of a book? You’ll have a lot more energy—and perspective—if you are relaxed and good to yourself.