Tell Us: Holiday Tips for the First-Time Family Caregiver

Last night, during our chat on Twitter, we talked about our plans for Thanksgiving and the traditions about our day we enjoy.

As I read the comments shared between family caregivers during our chat, I thought about the first Thanksgiving you face as a family caregiver. The holidays often become that benchmark, that reminder of how much differs because of a caree’s disease or disability and your caregiving role. That first holiday season, when traditions change or family members disappear or the loneliness of the experience settles in, can really be tough.

Toward the end of our chat, I asked: What ideas can help the first-time family caregiver facing the holidays?

I’d love for you to share your answers to that question, too. What tips can you offer to help them cope with their caree’s decline and their responsibility as a family caregiver? What suggestions can you share which can help them manage challenges with family who may be in denial about a caree’s diagnosis? Please share in our comments section, below.

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2 Comments on "Tell Us: Holiday Tips for the First-Time Family Caregiver"

Profile photo of Jo
Nov 19, 2012

For a First Time Family Caregiver facing the holidays I’d give two bits of advise which initially appear to contradict themselves but are actually interrelated:

— embrace the new. The holidays as a caregiver will likely not be what they once were, and that’s ok. People who normally participate may be absent; customs normally done may have to be abandoned and that’s ok. The holiday police will not intervene. New traditions can be started. This can be a time to experiment with something new; maybe something you’ve always considered but didn’t dare try due to being locked into the “family tradition” You now have a ready, “get out of jail card” to get out of an unwanted practice… “… sorry we won’t be exchanging fruit cake this year, I’m committed with being with Mom…”

— hang on to the past. Huh? What? I know, I know, I just wrote ditch the past. What I meant was don’t feel obligated to replicate the past in its entirety. Past holidays don’t have to be the “benchmark” or definition of what a good holiday means. However, if you can, brink elements of the past forward as touchstones connecting past and present. Maybe everyone won’t be around the table this year, but can you call and at least talk to many of them; may be a familiar reading or prayer won’t happen but you can visit a loved one in a facility and whisper your love and gratitude in their ear. Maybe Mom likes fruitcake and would love to have a chunk chiseled off and shared with you.

Best of all, if you totally mess things up, you have a chance for a complete do-over next year!

With some flexibility and creativity, key elements of holidays past can continue to be a part of your life. You CAN find yourself remarking by the end of the day that while seemingly everything has changed, the things that matter most haven’t changed at all.

Profile photo of ejourneys
Nov 19, 2012

I LOVE Jo’s answer! It covers all the bases.

I’ll add only this: So many of the things we do during the holidays are ways to express what lie underneath: love, fellowship, community. Our basic human bonds don’t go away, though caregiving may make them change form. The bonds we have with others are the real deal and the heart of the holidays. Even when we experience isolation as caregivers, we bond with our carees and with those who understand and accept our situation. Everything else is icing on the cake.