As the holiday grows nearer and we make our plans to visit or invite our loved ones over, stress begins to build over things like how will this year go? Last year was a challenge with my mother’s memory impairment or my father’s physical abilities to get in the car, into the house,etc. Other stressful things such as people not getting along, a mother or father who is critical and a sibling who thinks they know better than the caregiver can also increase stress and make the holidays sometimes and unwanted event.
To decrease some of this stress, the first thing is give yourself enough time. Everyone is hurried, traffic increases, time seems to shorten and our stress level goes up and over the top. If you are planning on having an elderly love one come over for the holiday events, arrange to have a family member who is reliable and may not have as many responsibilities as you to go and pick up mom or dad and bring them over. A newly divorced sibling, a single grandson or grand daughter or your sibling who volunteers. Often caregivers take too much on, not wanting to impose on others or sometimes falling into the trap that it is much easier to just do it myself. If you have an offer take the person up on it. It will save you some stress and it also is good practice to let someonelse do it. Often caregivers feel guilty like they have to do it all. Mothers and fathers can sometime lay the guilt on by making comments such as you are not letting so and so come and get me are you? why are you not coming? Don’t let the guilt get to you. Guilt is something we feel when we fell like we are doing something to someone that is bad or will negatively impact him or her. By having another family member pick up grandma is not doing anything negative, in fact it is a postive thing. Your stress level can be so high by the time you get there that all you do is argue all the way to back to the house.
Once the person arrives at your home, plan ahead of time what chair he or she will sit in, it may have to be a sturdy chair that is higher than others so the person can rise from it easily. The person might be in a wheelchair so plan for that at the dinner table. The person might need help cutting up food so maybe make his or her plate prior to sitting down at the table so the person does not have to be embarrassed that someone has to cut up food for him or her and also it saves you from being preoccupied with the who, what, when’s at the dinner table. Who is going to help grandma cut up the food, what should she eat, maybe she is diabetic and where will she sit, next to me or another family member? Maybe discuss with family prior to sitting down who can sit next to her. You, the caregiver do not have to. Even though you think it is your responsibility, it is okay to ask for help or take an offering. If your sister-in-law offers to sit next to grandma and help her, let her. You don’t have to be everything to everyone.
You are allowed to enjoy your holiday too. Let other people help you. Even if you don’t think they can help as well as you or they did it the way you would have, it’s okay for one day. You are allowed to have a day off from caregiving and all the guilt and stress that comes with it. Grandma will be taken care of, maybe not up to the standards you set for you but she will be cared for adequately and for one day that is okay. Often caregivers fall into the trap that they are the only ones who know how to properly care for their loved one. The expectations for care get very high and no other caregiver can meet these standards. This is the result of falling into the caregiver trap. The caregiver trap is a word I use to describe that emotional place that caregivers often find themselves in that is a codependent relationship with their elderly loved one. The caregiver begins to become one with the elderly person, sometimes losing where the caregiving stops and starts. Once you have lost the boundary of where it stops and starts, you become one with the elderly person and then no one can do a good a job as you, no one can do it right, no one can save the elderly person as you can.
It is a trap, a codependent caregiving trap and when a caregiver falls into it, it is hard to get out. Signs such as not wanting anyone to help, having standards for care so high no one can meet them, feeling like you cannot leave the person or that you could never hire outside help is dangerous and very unhealthy.
Be careful of the trap at the holidays, under stress it gets harder and harder to recognize the trap and allow others to help. It is okay to let others help. To read about getting outside help go to: http://www.comfortkeepers.com