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How to Avoid Caregiver Burnout and Manage Holiday Stress

Experts says caregivers can reduce holiday stress by asking for help from others and eliminating unrealistic expectations. (
Experts says caregivers can reduce holiday stress by asking for help from others and eliminating unrealistic expectations. (
December 21, 2017

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- A new poll shows almost 70 percent of people caring for a loved one deal with emotional stress over the holidays, and experts at AARP have a few tips to improve the situation.

The poll showed that 85 percent of caregivers had to scale back their plans, such as only going to some of the holiday gatherings and shopping online or buying gift cards. Amy Goyer, an author and family care-giving expert with AARP Arizona, advised caregivers to take some time for themselves to recharge.

"Get someone else to be with your loved ones for even a couple of hours and you can get some shopping done, some decorating,” Goyer suggested. "Do some of the things that are most meaningful to you this holiday season."

She also recommended only making the holiday foods that are sentimental for you this time of year, and buying some of the meal ready-made or asking others to make some of the food.

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Many families go to visit older loved ones during the holidays - so Goyer said it's important to keep an eye out for red flags; for example, if they appear disheveled, the mail is piling up, the house is in disrepair or there are some new dents and scratches on the car. But, she said, it's important not to put your loved one on the defensive by dwelling on what has gone wrong.

"Instead, say 'I love you so much and I want to be there for you and help and support you. Are there any things that are difficult for you right now?’” she advised. "So if you approach it that way, if you're not trying to take over their lives, they're going to be a whole lot more open to it."

Goyer also recommended that it may be better to discuss any big changes after the holidays, and invite your loved one's most trusted friends, family members or a doctor to be a part of the conversation. In addition, she said it's a good idea to plan some fun activities for January to help combat the post-holiday blues.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - NM