Coping with the Holidays as a Caregiver

December 2010

The holiday season can wear out the best of us. As a caregiver of someone living with cancer, you may feel overwhelmed or stressed by the demands of the season combined with taking care of your loved one.

As a caregiver it is important to put yourself first. This may seem opposite of what you should do, but as a caregiver, you must be healthy and whole before you can take care of anyone else.

As a caregiver it is important to:

  • Make sure to eat regular, proper meals. Good nutrition is important to keep us healthy and give us energy.
  • Try to get quality sleep. If you have trouble getting to sleep, or staying asleep, see a doctor for help. You may just need short-term help until your body regulates.
  • Try to get some exercise. Exercise does not mean you have to go to a gym or work out for a long period of time. Do what you can, when you can. Talk a short walk outside to clear your head or swim some laps to relax.
  • Have fun! Keep in contact with friends and family. Do not isolate yourself or your loved one. Meet a friend for coffee or do your grocery shopping together. Arrange for someone to stay with your loved one while you see a movie or catch up with phone calls. Interaction with others is very important for our mental health.

Here are some tips to make the holidays enjoyable but also rejuvenating for both you and your loved one:

  • Keep to a simple schedule. Commit only to events you feel are important or will be fun and say no to the rest.
  • Ask for help. Invite friends or family over to help decorate the tree or bake cookies. Hire young adults to do tasks around the house such as picking up groceries, cleaning and shoveling.
  • Make a new holiday tradition. If energy or activities are limited for your loved one, create a new tradition for your family. Instead of hosting Christmas dinner this year, make it a potluck or have it catered. Rather than travel, enjoy the season at home.
  • Shop online rather than fight the crowds. Online shopping has become very popular. Often you can find a better selection on a store’s website than at the actual store-and you will not have to fight the crowds! Some stores even ship free to your local branch for pick up.
  • Be patient with yourself and your loved one. You may find yourself feeling more upset and sad during the holiday season. If you find this to be the case, seek out a counselor or friend to talk.

And remember to put yourself first. Give yourself time to rejuvenate, reflect or feel sad. If you need to, seek out a counselor or friend to talk about your feelings. Do not feel guilty for how you feel.