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Seniors: Caregiving During the Holidays

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Stella Montano

Caregiving during the holiday season can bring on stress without having to worry about COVID-19’s impact. However, it’s even more important than ever to support the health of caregivers, as they continue caring for their loved ones in a pandemic.

Recently, a caregiver shared with me that she is one of many caregivers who have come down with COVID-19. One of the greatest fears a caregiver has is becoming ill themselves and no longer being able to care for their loved one. Imagine the heartbreaking news she received from the medical provider informing her she was positive with COVID-19. She already felt ill with a terrible headache, loss of taste and smell and was exhausted. Aren’t caregivers usually feeling exhausted, she thought?

Her mind racing as to what to do next — she certainly couldn’t expose her family and friends so now she had no help at all caring for her loved one. What if she passed it on to him? Who would care for them? In desperation, she called her sister in another state for support. Fortunately for this family, no one else came down with COVID.

Now we add the expectations of the holidays. It’s OK to give yourself a bit of a break. Here are some tips to help you make it through the holiday season with hopefully a little more joy and a little less stress:

• Simplify your holiday activities and remember it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. If you can’t put out all of your decorations, choose some with the most meaning.

• You may choose to start new traditions. Focus on what you and your loved one can do instead of the losses and what you are no longer able to do. If your loved one has trouble getting around, don’t risk a fall on icy sidewalks going out. Instead watch a holiday movie together and celebrate with a cup of hot chocolate.

• Food can be a big part of the holidays but cooking and baking require a lot of time and coordination for a caregiver. We’ve learned over the years that holiday baking, while rewarding, can also be exhausting. Simplify the menu. Instead of three desserts, pick one and then take extra time to enjoy it.

• Taking care of yourself should be at the top of your list. During the holidays it is even more important. If you find yourself running on empty, find ways to fill your tank. Connect with other caregivers and share your feelings. Some people enjoy holiday-scented aromatherapy to soothe and boost your mood. Put on favorite music that both of you can enjoy and relax.

Finally, ask for help. Family and friends can help with holiday preparations, running errands or maybe sitting with your loved one while you take a much needed break. Getting away for a little while can help refuel your tank and reduce stress.

Stay safe, my friends, and do your best to enjoy the holiday season.

-Stella Montano is a volunteer with AARP’s Sheridan Action Team, and a former caregiver program manager at The Hub in Sheridan. 

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