Advice for Family Caregivers

5 Tips for Family Caregivers During the Holidays

Share This

By Henry Ford Health System Staff

Being a caregiver for a loved one is stressful any time of year, but during the hustle, bustle and additional demands of the holidays, many caregivers become overwhelmed physically and emotionally. Some add to their stress the knowledge that this could be the last holiday season with their loved one.

Jane Felczak, R.N., a Henry Ford family caregiving expert, offers these practical tips to help caregivers make it through the holidays without losing their twinkle:

  1. Keep it realistic. “Pare down your expectations,” advises Felczak. “Make a list of what you think you can accomplish, and then cut it in half!”
  2. Take shortcuts. “Go to the bakery for cookies and breads. Give gift cards. Order pizzas. And say no. Just because you always did something in the past, doesn’t mean you have to do it this year,” she says.
  3. Accept help. If someone offers to help – accept their offer and give them a job – then let them do it without interference.
  4. Take care of yourself. “Take 10 minutes every day to sit and just be. Go outside if you can. Clear your brain, and don’t do anything. It’s amazing what this mental break can do for you,” says Felczak. Don’t skimp on sleep, and keep alcohol and caffeine to a minimum.
  5. Get support. Support groups, like Henry Ford’s C.A.R.E. Program, offer sessions in December and January. There may also be support groups and forums online. Talk to trusted friends and family about what you’re going through.

Felczak has special advice for those caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia:

  • Focus on the joy and interaction.  
  • Be mindful of the present, and don’t focus on the future.
  • Play your loved one’s favorite holiday music.
  • Connect over memories of the past and tell stories.

Setting Realistic Expectations

Don’t expect the holiday season to be perfect, says Felczak. “Sometimes things don’t go as planned, but those moments can make the best memories, too,” she says.

After the holidays are over, you may feel let down or disappointed. “Take a look back. Think about what happened that was good and the fun moments here and there,” recommends Felczak.

At any time of year, Felczak suggests ending your day by taking a minute to think of three positive things that happened: “Thinking about these things at the end of the day means you go into sleep with a more positive outlook. And when you go into sleep that way, chances are good you’ll wake up that way, too. It’s a simple technique worth trying.”

If you’re a family caregiver, learn more about the Henry Ford C.A.R.E. program, Caregiver Assistance Resources and Education®, at HenryFord.com/familycaregivers, by calling (313) 874-4838, or emailing CaregiverResources@hfhs.org. Join our Facebook group, “Henry Ford Health System Family Caregivers,” and become part of an online community of caregivers.

Jane Felczak, MSN, R.N.,CPPS, manages patient safety and clinical quality projects at Henry Ford Health System and works with the Henry Ford C.A.R.E. Program for caregivers.