Tips for family caregivers during the holidays

During the hustle and bustle of the holidays, many caregivers can become overwhelmed physically and emotionally. Jane Felczak, RN, a family caregiving expert, offers these practical tips to help caregivers make it through the holidays without losing their twinkle:

Keep it realistic. Pare down your expectations. Make a list of what you think you can accomplish and then cut it in half.

Take shortcuts. Go to the bakery for cookies and breads. Give gift cards. Order pizzas. And say no. Just because you always did something in the past, doesn’t mean you have to do it this year.

Accept help. If someone offers to help, accept their offer and give them a task. Then let them do it without interference.

Take care of yourself. Take 10 minutes every day to sit and just be. Go outside if you can.

Clear your brain and don’t do anything. It’s amazing what this mental break can do for you. Don’t skimp on sleep and try to keep alcohol and caffeine intake to a minimum.

Get support. Support groups, like the ones the Kenai Peninsula Family Caregiver Support Program offers, provide encouragement and understanding. Talk to your friends and family about how you’re feeling. The more you can put a voice to your feelings, the more you will feel supported.

Felczak has special advice for those caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or related dementia:

- Focus on the joy and interaction.

- Be mindful of the present and don’t focus on the future.

- Play your loved one’s favorite holiday music.

- Connect over memories of the past and tell stories.

Setting realistic expectations

Don’t expect the holiday season to be perfect. Sometimes things don’t go as planned, but those moments can make the best memories, too.

After the holidays are over, you may feel let down or disappointed. Take a look back. Think about what happened that was good as well as the fun moments here and there. It’s also good to remember that at any time of year you can end your day by taking a minute to think of three positive things that happened. Thinking about these things at the end of the day means you go into sleep with a more positive attitude and when you go to sleep that way, chances are good you’ll wake up that way, too. It’s a simple technique worth trying.

Dani Kebschull is the program coordinator for the Kenai Peninsula Family Caregiver Support program.

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