Providing Caregiving for Seniors During the Holiday Season


Being a caregiver for your elderly parents or friends can be a big job at any time of the year. During the holidays, there can be additional challenges to face. With a bit of planning, you can conquer those holiday challenges and provide the best possible care for your loved ones!

The Holidays Can Be a Wonderful Time, But They Can Also Be Difficult

The holidays can be a wonderful time, filled with family gatherings, gifts, food treats, and cozy feelings of goodwill. If the pandemic has shown us anything, it has shown us how important it is to see and hug loved ones in person.

Until you start work as a caregiver, it can be hard to imagine some of the difficulties of managing care for other people during the holiday season. The holidays are a very busy time for everyone, and it can be difficult to coordinate care schedules, family visits and travels, gift-giving, and medical care.

Coordinating Care Schedules

Depending on where you are in your caregiving journey and who is helping you (or not), it can be particularly difficult during the holiday season to coordinate caregiving schedules. Many caregivers also have other extended family members to visit and children to care for or to welcome home. Trying to cover times when you are helping an elderly relative while you are also expected to travel to visit others or welcome others into your home requires planning.

If you are a primary or sole caregiver, it is important to set boundaries and accept that you may not be able to be everywhere you want to be, especially on the actual holiday days or evenings. Flexibility can be your best friend here; reach out to everyone with whom you want to spend time and schedule meet-ups or calls on less-busy days or even after the actual holidays.

If you must provide care on the big days like Christmas or New Year’s Eve night (often because this is when any help you may have employed will want time off), ask other family members and friends if they would consider opening gifts or going out to celebrate on non-holiday days.

If you are caregiving as part of a team or network of family members, good communication can be the most important tool in your toolbox. Be kind, but be ready to negotiate. Whoever you are caregiving with–siblings or cousins or other friends–will also have their own holiday needs and wants. By giving a little on some of your wants, you will most likely be able to help others achieve most of their needs–and vice versa. But nobody will know what your holiday plans are unless you are open about sharing them.

Family Visits and Travels

The holidays are a popular time to travel, and also a time when many family members want to visit parents and extended families.

If you are providing care for an elderly person who wishes to travel, this can be stressful due to the busy nature of highways (if you’re driving) and airports (if you’re flying). As ever, build in plenty of time to make your travels, and make sure you have snacks, water, personal care items like incontinence underwear and medications, and activities along. Watch weather forecasts ahead of time, and if possible, book flight times or routes that might be less busy.

Having family visit you or the person for whom you are providing care can also be upsetting to settled routines. As much as possible, invite visitors to take part in your regularly scheduled meal times and activities. If you must plan special events, keep them low-stress and low-fuss and remember that for people struggling with health or memory issues, less can often be more. Also be aware of times of day when the person you’re caring for is most alert and possibly receptive to visitors and schedule them during those times.

Gift-Giving and Food Treats

Trying to think of an appropriate or “new” gift for someone who may not be interested in accumulating new possessions can be a difficult task. If you really feel you want to or have to buy a present for someone for whom you are caring, it can be helpful to think of small items or gifts that can also be used up. Such items might be personal care items, like lotions or soaps (keep skin conditions in mind, though), or home items like candles or even fresh flowers or plants.

Sometimes any small item that can be an event to unwrap will fit the bill. Elderly people often benefit from more sensory stimulation, so small gifts like a soft stuffed animal or pillow, fidget toys, or other therapy putties or things to work with their hands might be appreciated.

The holidays can also feel like a time of deprivation for those on restricted diets; sweets and fattening goodies and special meals are suddenly everywhere. For those caregivers looking after people with special dietary needs, try to find items of food that are allowed but might still provide novelty value, such as different types of fruit or drinks (such as sparkling grape juice in place of alcoholic beverages). Again, making a plan for healthy meals is paramount, but often sugar-free candy or other substitution items can be found to provide safe treats that won’t interfere with medical conditions or medications.

Medical Care

Medical professionals are people just like everyone else and have family events and obligations for which they will need time away from work. Because of this, the winter holiday months can be a challenging time to get appointments made and medical questions answered as soon as you might like.

There will always be emergencies that you can’t control, but you can make a plan to address your appointment and medical needs ahead of time. If possible, schedule routine check-ups before or after the holidays, and make sure to help the person to whom you are giving care get any vaccinations or boosters they might need in a timely manner. Likewise, double-check all necessary prescriptions and make sure you have a sufficient supply to get you through two months (and also make sure you have your doctor’s okay to refill prescriptions as necessary).

Before the holiday rush is also a good time to check medicine cabinets and stock up on any non-prescription items, like hot or cold packs, painkillers, and cold and flu medicines.

With just a bit of advance thought and planning, as well as efficient communication, caregivers can make this the best holiday season ever for themselves and for those they are helping.






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