Holiday Stress Relief for Caregivers

The holiday season is in full swing and while it’s certainly a joyous time of year, it’s also a time when we are all are prone to holiday stress. Senior caregivers are especially vulnerable. It’s easy to become overwhelmed with senior care when family demands are also so high. Caregivers often have to two sets of holiday chores like shopping, wrapping, and writing cards; and if the caregiver is stressed, believe me, the senior experiences stress as well. Here are some ideas to help alleviate the stress and find time for some fun amidst the chaos that is the holiday season.

Take a Mental and Physical Break
Often when the to-do list looks overwhelming, caregivers can feel that taking a break is somewhat indulgent. Not true. According to The Energy Project’s Tony Scwartz, we can accomplish more by doing less. Taking breaks can help you avoid burnout and stay motivated. Watch an old holiday movie like Christmas in Connecticut or The Bishop’s Wife and don’t feel compelled to multi-task when you’re doing it.

Get Some Fresh Air
If you live in a colder climate, it may feel like you’re running from indoor heated space to indoor heated space — from home, to car, to store, and back again. Caregivers know that it’s important to keep a senior active, even during the frigid months. But winter’s cold can limit a senior’s mobility and slick sidewalks can cause treacherous falls. If your city has an indoor botanical garden or conservatory, take your senior client or loved one for a stroll through some much needed fresh (warm) air. Check schedules for special programs like holiday markets, flower shows, concerts, caroling, and holiday light shows. I like to sit on a bench in Chicago’s Garfield Park Conservatory’s Fern Room and pretend that spring is right around the corner. Many conservatories are free (like the aforementioned Garfield Park Conservatory) or have discounted senior pricing.

The photo above shows the Garfield Park Conservatory White Holiday Flower Show in 2007

Eat Right
During the holidays, treats are everywhere! And when we’re stressed, we tend to gravitate to comfort foods that are not necessarily nutrient-rich. It’s especially important to eat healthy during this frantic time. Eating well not only strengthens our immune system (so important during cold and flu season,) but good carbs, fruit, and vegetables have been shown to raise serotonin levels, helping us to relax. And citrus fruits, in season this time of year, are chock-full of precious vitamin C and other antioxidants — known stress-busters.

Get Some Help
Don’t turn down any offers of help from family, friends, or neighbors. Sometimes caregiver stress can be alleviated with just a few hours away. If there are no offers on the table, consider hiring some respite help. Call a quality senior home care agency early in the season to book a companion caregiver to help with a senior’s activities of daily living, freeing you up to take care of your own holiday needs.

Caregiverlist wishes you the best this holiday season. If you feel overwhelmed as a senior caregiver, remember to take a few minutes out of your busy schedule to stop and enjoy all the holiday goodness around you. Remember, it’s your holiday too!

Feel free to post your own suggestions for beating holiday stress in the comments.

Thanksgiving with Seniors: Checking for Signs of Dementia

Thanksgiving is right around the corner and with it, the holiday season officially begins. If you are like the host of other Americans that celebrate by gathering with family and sharing a delicious meal, it’s a great time to assess the health, both physical and mental, of the aging member(s) of your group.

Holidays are a prime time for families to detect dementia in a family member, according to the Alzheimer's Foundation of America, especially if it’s been a while since you’ve seen your older family members. While it’s certainly an exciting time, it’s also an extremely stressful time — regular routines are disrupted, and large groups of people means noise and excitement — it’s sort of a perfect storm of a time to determine if your aging loved one is exhibiting signs of memory loss.

If you spend Thanksgiving at your senior’s home, a quick bit of detective work will give you some insight into their mental health. Remember to do this stealthily! This is not the time for confrontation, but an opportunity to gauge if your loved ones are living their best lives.

Take a good look (and smell)
Has there been obvious weight loss? People with memory loss often forget to eat. If they are depressed, which often happens when someone begins to experience mental acuity changes, they may decide that cooking is too much bother.

How is their personal hygiene? Are clothes clean? Make note of their grooming to determine any odd or peculiar changes in their regular appearance.

In the house
Check the refrigerator for expired food. Or multiples of the same food. Take a look in the living areas; are they clean and free of clutter? Peek at more personal spaces. While common areas might have been picked up in anticipation of guests, out-of-the-way areas like bathtubs and closets might give a truer picture of a senior’s ability to keep up with general tasks. If they have plants or animals, are they thriving?

Is there any unopened mail hanging about? Paying bills, especially, may seem overwhelming. According to Forbes, financial decision-making capacity erodes early on in those suffering with memory loss, dementia, or Alzheimer’s disease.

Talk to neighbors
If you aren’t around much, talk to those who are. If you happen to see neighbors, ask if they have noticed any changes in your senior loved one. A certain red flag is isolation. If they don’t see your senior as often as they used to, it can be cause for concern. Now is the perfect time to exchange phone numbers and ask them to contact you if they see anything remiss.

If you do suspect that there are changes in your senior loved one’s mental acuity, don’t hide your head in the sand. Take the opportunity to talk to other family members and make a plan of action. The first step? Consult your elder’s primary care physician and in the meantime, perhaps enlist some help.

From all of us at Caregiverlist, we wish you a happy and healthy Thanksgiving.

Attitude of Gratitude: Grateful for Our Caregiver

Thanksgiving kicked off the holiday season and, as we batten down the hatches for yet another whirlwind period of feasting and folly, as part of our mission at Caregiverlist in “Caring for the Caregiver” we’d like to take this opportunity and thank those caring for those who cannot care for themselves. Here are some ways you can show your thanks during this holiday season:

Family Caregiver
The most prevalent of all caregivers, the family caregiver works tirelessly, perhaps at another job as well, to provide loving and caring home care for an elderly family member. Many times, the family caregiver will be overwhelmed, and the sometimes staggering responsibility makes it difficult for them to take time to care for themselves. This season is a good time to relieve some of the pressure and ask what they would like for you to do for them. Don’t just jump in and take over the caregiving — although that might be your first inclination — both the caregiver and the recipient of the care have a special bond and may prefer things handled a certain way. Perhaps the caregiver would appreciate if you could provide a meal or two, or come over to do a load of laundry. You can certainly offer respite time for the family caregiver to take care of personal needs, whether that be holiday shopping or just going out to gaze at the festive lights of the season.

Paid Home Caregiver
The bond between a home caregiver and senior is special because of it’s one-to-one nature. A dedicated in-home caregiver can be more like family to a senior than a paid helper. Give your sincere thanks to this person both verbally and with a thank you note, and maybe include a little holiday bonus cash or gift card. I think any amount would be appreciated. Caregiving is not an especially lucrative profession, many go into it because they enjoy making a difference in a senior’s quality of life.

Care in Assisted Living
The staff at an Assisted Living facility make life so much easier for you and your beloved senior. They might take care of laundry, light housekeeping, transportation, medical reminders and perhaps most importantly, provide access to activities. Many facilities have strict regulations prohibiting employees from accepting individual gifts. You can, however, provide something for the staff in the way of treats (sweet and savory -- think cookies, candy, fruit, bagel platters, coffee and tea for staff lounges ). Check to make sure there is a central area where staff can congregate. And although you must insist that no major individual gifts are given, a senior may say “thanks” with a gift from a candy box in their room or apartment.

Nursing Home Care
Just like an Assisted Living Facility, there are strict rules about giving gifts to Nursing Home employees, so the same rules apply. But because of the nature of round-the-clock and more significant level of care, there may be more staff and more shifts to think about treating. Also, skilled nurses and therapists may have separate breakrooms from those in support. This is where it pays to do a little investigating. Many nursing home facilities may set up a communal holiday fund to distribute equally among staff. Donations are kept anonymous and no one is compelled to contribute. This helps prevent the chance of a resident receiving special treatment due to monetary gifting. Also, if there is a special caregiver or two (or more) that you’d like to acknowledge — in both Nursing Home and Assisted Living facilities, send a note to the facility director or administrator. Many places rely on feedback such as this to administer bonuses, career advancements and special acknowledgements.

None of us are here to go it alone, especially as we grow older. Please join us at Caregiverlist and give special thanks to those who help care for the ones we love.

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Caring for the Caregiver: Holiday Gift Ideas for the Family Caregiver

Holidays afford you the ability to show your family caregiver how thankful you are for the service they provide. They perform the tireless job so that you don’t have to. Here are some gift ideas to show you appreciate them and all they do.

Spa treatment. Give the gift of a massage, manicure, pedicure, facial—some or all of the above. Family caregivers are, by definition, always caring for others. The holidays are a perfect time to pamper them.

Dinner and a Movie (for two). No doubt the family caregiver deserves some time off, and nothing beats dinner and a movie—it brings to mind the best of date nights. A big complaint among family caregivers is the isolation they sometimes feel. Give gift certificates for two so the caregiver can do the asking.

Goodie Basket. When you’re working with a fixed income, as many family caregivers do, chocolate truffles, a nice bottle of wine or the occasional pomegranate are luxury indulgences. Put together a nice basket full of items the caregiver wouldn’t necessarily buy for themselves. Build the basket around a theme like An Afternoon in Provence, Escape to Tuscany or a Chocolate-Lover’s Basket.

Medical Alert System. Sometimes a family caregiver is afraid to step away from their charge for even a few hours. The fear is that something awful could happen the moment the caregiver closes the door. A Medical Alert System affords the caregiver peace of mind that the elder loved one could get outside help during an emergency if they themselves are not present.

Cash or Gift Cards. Let’s face it, family caregiving is not a lucrative profession. Many family caregivers take unpaid leave or cut down on their work hours to help care for a senior loved-one. Gift cards and cash are well earned, always welcome and are always the right size.

Gift Certificates for Classes. Family caregivers often give up the outside activities that once gave them joy. What do they love (and miss) doing? Tennis? Yoga? A gift of a class will not only give them some much-needed time away from the routine of caregiving, but also give them a new social outlet.

Time. Give your family caregiver a few hours to themselves. If you can’t provide the respite care yourself, turn to a trusted Home Care Agency to provide a few hours of relief for the family caregiver. Family caregiver burnout is a real problem, no matter what time of year. You can give your family caregiver some downtime and breathing space with the gift of a reprieve.

And remember, these gifts are not only for the holidays...your family caregiver can use these thoughtful offerings all year long.




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Caring for the Caregiver: Family Caregiving During the Holidays

Family caregiving can be stressful during the best of times. Holidays can prove to be especially challenging for even the most stalwart of caregivers. And unlike decorating, shopping and wrapping, caregiving doesn’t afford the ability to step back at a point and say, “Well, at least that’s done!”

During holidays especially, there’s the added stress of juggling more activities and undertakings than usual. As family and friends find themselves caught up in the whirlwind of their own holiday activities, the family caregiver may feel more isolated in their responsibilities.

If you feel the burden is too much, now is the time to bring it up and discuss it with other family members. They may not realize just how much work goes into the care of a senior loved one. The trick is—how does one do that in a non-judgemental, nonconfrontational way?

Our friends at Lotsa Helping Hands are offering a free webinar –Caregiving During the Holidays– on Thursday December 15 at 2 pm EDT.

As you gather to celebrate with your family this holiday season, it is the perfect opportunity to sit down and have conversations about caregiving for aging parents or other loved ones—whether you have already started your caregiving journey or will be in the future. The webinar will be especially focused on “caregiving conversation starters.” This is a great opportunity to learn ideas for holiday caregiving and planning ahead as well as useful tips and features of Lotsa Helping Hands. You can register at www.lotsahelpinghands.com/webinar

This may also be the time to bring up the possibility of hiring respite care from a quality senior home care agency. Most family caregivers spend 20-40 hours per week caring for their loved ones. The holidays are a perfect time to gift yourself or someone you love with much-needed help.


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