How caregivers and older adults can cope with holiday stress

Family at Christmas time

The holidays are supposed to be synonymous with joy and celebration, but for many older adults and family caregivers the season can bring about stressors that are difficult to deal with.

With a few coping skills and strategies in mind, you’ll be able to navigate and mitigate the overwhelming stress and challenges of the holiday season while spending quality time with your loved ones.

Common stressors for caregivers during the holidays

Increased responsibilities

Caregivers often find themselves juggling additional responsibilities during the holidays, such as planning gatherings and coordinating travel.

Delegating these tasks, setting realistic expectations and asking for support from family and friends can help lighten your load and give you more opportunities to relax throughout the season. 

Emotional burden

The holiday season may evoke complex emotions for both caregivers and their loved ones, particularly if they have health issues or memories of past celebrations with deceased friends and family members.

Acknowledging and expressing these emotions, seeking support from a therapist or support group, and fostering open communication within the family can help manage emotional stress.

Balancing self-care

Caregivers often neglect their own well-being while prioritizing the needs of their loved ones, which can lead to burnout. If left unaddressed, burnout can turn into dangerous lapses in care.

Scheduling regular breaks, asking for help when you need it and recognizing the importance of self-care are essential for maintaining physical and mental health, especially during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. If you need a more substantial break from your duties, seeking respite care could be the perfect way to help you reset and recharge.

Common stressors for older adults during the holidays

Social isolation

Many older adults experience a sense of isolation or loneliness during the holiday season, particularly if they have lost loved ones or live far away from family and friends.

Embracing social connections through virtual meetings, phone calls, local community events and faith groups can mitigate feelings of isolation or loneliness during the holidays.

Health concerns

Managing chronic health conditions can be more challenging during the holidays because of disruptions to daily routines and potential exposure to illness.

Prioritizing self-care, adhering to medication regimens and maintaining open communication with health care providers can contribute to better overall wellness.

Financial strain

Limited resources may lead to financial stress, especially when faced with the pressure to buy gifts or participate in costly activities.

Setting a budget, opting for homemade and cost-effective gifts, and exploring community resources can help alleviate financial burdens.

Strategies for coping with holiday stress

Open communication

Both older adults and caregivers should engage in open and honest communication with their loved ones about expectations, limitations and emotional well-being during the holiday season.

Adapt and simplify traditions

Consider adapting long-standing traditions to better suit your current circumstances. Simplifying celebrations can reduce stress and make the holiday season more enjoyable for everyone.

Prioritize self-care

Encourage older adults and caregivers to prioritize self-care through open communication, adequate sleep, regular exercise and activities that bring joy and relaxation.

Seek support

Reach out to friends, family, church or support groups to share your experiences and seek guidance. Knowing that others are going through similar challenges can provide you with comfort and understanding.

Plan ahead

Spend time planning ahead for holiday festivities to eliminate last-minute stress. Creating a realistic schedule, setting priorities and delegating tasks can distribute the workload effectively.

If you need help to overcome the stress of the season, don’t hesitate to reach out to your friends, family or a support group.

For more advice on navigating life as a caregiver or older adult, visit our resources page.


Related resources

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