The Christmas season is a hectic time for many of us due to the preparations and festivities that typically take place. Staying sane, not to mention enjoying this special time of year, is even more of a challenge for those who provide care to a chronically ill relative.
Following are suggestions for lightening the load of a caregiver you know:
1. Bake extra holiday treats to share with him or her.
2. Ask if there’s anything he needs if you’re heading out to the grocery store or running out to do other errands.
3. Offer respite for an hour so she can get her hair done or attend a worship service—or for a longer stretch so she can go shopping or attend a holiday event.
4. Offer to decorate, wrap gifts or perform other holiday-related tasks. If he enjoys some of these activities, occupy his loved one so he can engage in them without interruption.
5. Offer to address Christmas cards and take them to the post office or assist her in preparing and sending a newsletter to update relatives and friends.
6. If he plans to entertain, offer to help with preparations and cleanup, or to attend to his loved one during the event so he can concentrate on hosting duties and mingle with guests.
7. If she doesn’t drive, offer transportation to the mall, a church event or somewhere else that she (and perhaps her loved one, if feasible) would like to go.
8. Encourage him to practice self-care by eating nutritiously, exercising and getting sufficient rest. Provide whatever practical assistance you can to facilitate this. For example, bring over a meal or offer to sit with his loved one so she can go for a walk.
9. Surprise her with a treat, such as a rented movie (perhaps a holiday classic) or a poinsettia or other Christmas decoration. If you’re on a limited income, sign out magazines, books, movies or CDs for her from the public library.
10. Ask—rather than guess—what kind of practical help he could use most—perhaps it’s dusting and vacuuming or running errands. If he declines assistance, continue to express your desire to help. Meanwhile, take it upon yourself to deliver a casserole or muffins and, if you’re a neighbor, to shovel his walk when you do your own. Encourage him to ask for help if he’s trying to do it all alone.
Keep in mind that emotional support and your time are the two most valuable gifts you can give a caregiver, not only at Christmas but throughout the rest of the year as well.
© 2013 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers