Chris Barstein Tips for caregivers managing holiday stress
The holidays are for making memories with loved ones and enjoying time together. Unfortunately, the holiday season can also increase stress levels for many — especially caregivers. About 34.2 million Americans have provided unpaid care to an adult age 50 or older in the last 12 months; about 15.7 million adult family caregivers are caring for someone who has Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia. As executive director of a Stamford-based senior living community, improving the quality of life of older adults and their families is my No. 1 mission. So, how can caregivers best manage holiday stress?
Take a breath — Breathe. Smile. Laugh. Always look for joy in small moments each day to help keep stress to a minimum.
Find available resources — There are many great resources available in the community for caregivers; support groups are highly recommended. Even if you learn nothing new, it is an opportunity to share with those who are going through the same challenges as you and a reminder that you are not alone.
Realize when it is time to make a move — Recent accidents or close calls are warning signs that it might be time to make a move to a senior living community. When increased frailty or the common cold becomes a serious event, or your loved one doesn’t take care of his or herself to the same degree as in the past in their dressing or grooming — it might be time to let go of that major burden of care and initiate the conversation.
Avoid guilt —Many caregivers experience guilt as they wonder if they’re doing all they can do for their loved one. Guilt is common and to be expected, but realize you’re not a superhero, you’re just human. It helps to talk with others in the same situation as you; it puts things into perspective.
Communicate — Always keep communicating with your loved one. Look them in the eyes, hold their hand, tell them what you’re doing, ask them questions. Too often a caregiver gets into “task mode” and it’s easy to treat them like an inanimate object instead of a person.
Holidays can be an emotional time for all of us. Caregivers often find their situations become more stark as they remember holidays past. That coupled with added stress on everyone as the demands of family, gifts and gatherings get closer, can be a recipe for disaster. If you are starting to feel drained instead of joy, seek opportunities for, and take a break; even if only for five minutes. You need to take time for yourself each day and at every opportunity. Take time to remember what the holidays are all about — love and cheer with the people you care about.
Chris Barstein is executive director at Edgehill Community, a Benchmark Senior Living Community in Stamford.