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Caregiving Over the Holidays: Tips to engage family members’ help

Deborah Moore Jaquith
AARP Nevada Director of Communications

With the holiday season upon us, many families will gather to participate in a variety of activities which occur between now and the New Year. Some of these events will be festive, some obligatory – and to be honest – some will be stressful. Though the stress of the holidays can be even greater for caregivers, gathering with other family members can also be a time for personal reflection and peace of mind – especially if you receive a gift of help and better awareness of your situation from other family members this season.

Here are five ways that family members visiting for the holidays can help take care of your loved one and ease your load:

It Doesn’t Always Have to Be You: Is there an activity that your loved one likes to do that a visiting relative might enjoy, as well? For instance, Grandma loves to play gin rummy (and you just cannot bear another game). Or maybe assisted walks are part of your family member’s daily physical therapy. Assign one of the younger family members to help with that “task” with your loved one.

Reestablish Old Friendships: Enlist a visiting family member to help your loved one go through his or her address book and send out holiday cards. In the process, take note of which friends might be local, and worth getting in touch with to renew a friendship. It may be a wonderful gift, with your elder’s permission, to rekindle some old connections for companionship in the New Year.

The Way We Were: Looking for a chance to reduce clutter? Your loved one might enjoy going through all the old ornaments, holiday decorations and general knick-knacks with visiting family members. Recruit another member of the family to help and encourage him/her to throw away any broken items. Ask your loved one: “Why don’t you let your grand niece have that ornament, and tell her the story of who made it?” Another clutter reducer: go through old clothes. What Grandpa can no longer wear may be the height of style for a younger family member. If there is a story for your loved one to tell in the process, that will make it even better.

We Are Family: Relatives are passing through during the holidays, ask if they would be willing to help with one task that you have not had time to do. Think of some chores that still are on your list. For example, can a tall nephew clean out the gutters before the snow comes? Does the bathroom need a good top-to-bottom scrubbing? Are there items that needed to be hauled to the dump? Consider tapping others to do a little work instead of doing all of it yourself or having to pay to get it done. If you have family members living nearby, perhaps you can negotiate some shared responsibility for care as well. Many times, other family members aren’t aware of the challenges for the primary caregiver. Let them know if you need help.

It’s Just Me, Myself & I: Make a date with yourself. Take the opportunity to ask someone to take over one task, chore or transportation need that you normally fulfill, and take a break. Make a promise yourself that in the New Year you’ll seek regular breaks. Many communities have adult day care services for the frail which will allow you to drop off your loved one for several hours so that you have some respite.

Learn more ways to ease your caregiving tasks over the holidays and throughout the year through resources and information from AARP at http://www.aarp.org/caregiving. Need information on local Nevada resources? You can dial 2-1-1 or visit http://www.nevada211.org/ to learn more about possible services and resources to help you in your role as a caregiver.