Caregivers never have just one job. Most caregivers not only help an older adult or loved one in their orbit, but they also are holding down a full-time day job. And by the way, those who are part of the sandwich generation also have children still living at home who depend upon them. Just when that all sounds pretty onerous, the holidays come along and the demands get ratcheted up to the point of breaking. The turkey and fixings that the caregiver prepares for the holiday table may look and taste fantastic, but the caregiver/chef feels like yesterday’s leftovers by the end of the day. If you are a caregiver this holiday season, please follow these four basic recipes for survival so that you do not feel as picked over as yesterday’s entree:
1. Have a helping of freshly served self-congratulations. At Thanksgiving in particular, we all give thanks for the bounty, but do not overlook the caregiver in the midst of all the thanking. The older loved one for whom you care may not be able to thank you if they are suffering from a dementia, but all the more reason that you remember to thank you.
2. Savor the flavor of a much-deserved break from it all. You have all this family gathered at the feast, and those many hands can also make fast work of the chores, such as cleaning up and tidying after the banquet. Appreciate that family may need to be reminded, but they will actually get into making it a great day for the caregiver – just as much as they got into the pumpkin pie.
3. Give yourself permission to take a pass on the veggies if you like. Not all of the holiday will be easy on a caregiver, particularly if you find mom or dad is slipping since the last time you were together as a family. Being a caregiver is emotionally demanding and you are entitled to the feelings of sadness or fear, even resentment or anger, about when mom or dad will someday be gone.
4. You don’t have to bake everything yourself. Caregivers often feel that they just need to be a little stronger, just take on a little more or just tough out a rough patch. That sort of “going it alone” mentality can lead to burnout or depression or even anger toward a loved one. Don’t hesitate to seek out a professional counselor to help you process some of the feelings that come with the territory just as you would buy the dinner rolls at a store when you are running out of time before dinner.
If you can follow at least some of these recipes for the holidays, you will be taking care of yourself. And if you care of the caregiver, you will be able to better care for a loved one in as positive a way as you can. Remember: You don’t have to be a perfect. You just have to be “good enough.”
Charlotte Bishop is a Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Case Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago. Please email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.