How to Manage Dementia Caregiver Stress During the Holidays

With the holidays just around the corner, stress can be at an all-time high. From shopping for presents and wrapping them to decorating and preparing dishes for the feasts and more, it can all be a little overwhelming. For caregivers of a loved one with dementia, however, stress may be even worse. According to Winsome McLeod, Executive Director at YourLife™ of Stuart, a memory care community in Stuart, Florida, caregiver stress can be consuming, especially during the holidays. “Caregivers are prone to stress and burnout any time of the year, but during the holidays, the to-do list may be even more overwhelming,” says Winsome. “Not only do they have to deal with the daily responsibilities of caring for their loved one, but they also have to try to fit in as much holiday preparation as they can. This often leads to depression, anxiety and even resentment. It’s possible to have a happy holiday season if caregivers have help, understanding and the ability to effectively manage stress.”

Managing Stress to Have a Happier Holiday

Caregivers can make their holidays more enjoyable by following some of these top ten caregiving tips by AARP®. 

  1. Don’t focus on perfection. While we all want the holidays to be perfect, it’s more important to focus on what is the most meaningful to you and your loved one with dementia. Is decorating the tree the highlight of your year? How about baking? Make sure to do the things that mean the absolute most to you and enjoy them with your loved one. 
  1. Keep it simple. Again, choosing the things you participate in is key. The article states that instead of decorating everything, choose a few items that you find the most significant. If decorating is extremely important to you, ask friends and family to come help out. If you usually send cards or travel but know it will be too much for your loved one, consider not sending cards and stay home this year. It’s likely everyone will understand.
  1. Adapt your traditions. If your loved one is really limited in what they can do, consider adapting activities to meet their needs. Instead of having them cook holiday meals, have them set the table. If they can no longer drive but love looking at Christmas lights, take them for a spin and do so.
  1. Adjust holiday meals. It can be extremely stressful to cook a big meal. Instead of putting in all that effort, consider simplifying the menu or having family members bring different dishes. It can also help to order your holiday meal and have it prepared for you. 
  1. Scale back on presents. Shopping and wrapping gifts while caring for a loved one with dementia can be difficult, especially since caregivers have a hard time getting away to go shopping. Consider drawing names as a family and getting gifts for just one person or make a gift by hand. If you prefer to give everyone something, a gift card to their favorite place can be just the thing.
  1. Avoid hot buttons. If there are any sad or unhappy memories or relatives who cause you stress or drama, do your best to avoid them. The article states that putting yourself in a protective bubble can help let negative energy bounce off to prevent excess stress or hurt. 
  1. Be positive. When it comes to the holidays, a negative attitude is all it takes to ruin a perfectly good time. Instead of focusing on the negatives, focus on the positives such as what your loved one can do and what traditions you are participating in.
  1. Take care of yourself. During the holidays, many people are focused so much on giving that they forget about themselves. While this is generally common, caregivers rarely get a chance to focus on their well-being. Take some time to do what you love to do and focus on everything you are accomplishing – not what you aren’t getting done.
  1. Find support. Support groups or online chats can help you find more ways to deal with caregiver stress and burnout. Talking to others can also help you feel less alone and provide you with more ideas on how to simplify your holiday.
  1. Ask for help. The most efficient way to handle caregiver stress during the holidays is to ask for help. While many caregivers struggle with this, delegating tasks or asking for a break can help to decrease your stress significantly.

Remember, at the end of the day, you know yourself and your loved one best. Don’t do more than you think you can do, and don’t push yourself or your loved one with dementia too hard to make this holiday season grand. Usually, this will just make you and your loved one miserable. For more information on how to manage your caregiver stress, or to learn about our respite care program so you can enjoy a much-deserved break, contact our team today. We would love to provide you with expert advice and the care you deserve.

Designed for You. Defined by You.

YourLife of Stuart was created with one purpose – to provide the most exceptional memory care and uplifting lifestyle for our residents. As memory care specialists, we focus all our energy, attention and resources to creating a community that caters to each resident’s personal needs, respects their choices and honors individuality, while providing unequaled peace of mind and support for families. Because memory care is our sole focus, we have the unique ability to design and personally tailor plans around our residents. We see each resident as an individual, understanding that everyone has their own story, specific needs and retained abilities. With that information, we develop personally inspired care plans that value and support each person’s independence. Our team of attentive, caring YourLife Personal Care Specialists is on site 24 hours a day, seven days a week to provide assistance with everyday activities, gentle reminders and redirection. Through our signature programming, YourStory, we create an individual experience centered around each resident. From cultural, educational and health and wellness programming, scheduled outings and other special events to personal care, assistance and multiple therapies, we create days with meaning. At YourLife of Stuart, our residents and families know that this is a community designed for you, with a lifestyle defined by you. Contact us to learn more! Call us at 772-207-4191 for more information or to schedule a personal visit today.