Navigating the holidays as a caregiver in the time of COVID-19
Posted on November 19, 2020 by Ajla Bedzetovic
This year, the holidays will look different for all of us. If you are one of the more than 60 million caregivers in North America who look after an older adult inside the home, you may be wondering how to celebrate and stay safe.
Stay connected with others
Many people experience depression during the holidays due to stress and social isolation. Even before the pandemic, caregiving limited the time and opportunities you have to spend with others. Feelings of isolation may be amplified this year.
If this happens, tell yourself it’s okay to be sad. Remind yourself that everyone feels isolated to some degree this year, so you are not alone. Acknowledge your feelings, and then make safe social connections a priority. Call friends and family members often and arrange for online video chats.
Find an online caregiver support group to connect with people who can relate to your feelings. A good place to start is at Caregiving.com. Partnering with another caregiver can help you both navigate the holidays. Agree to talk on the phone, video chat, text or email each other daily. If they live nearby, offer to pick up their groceries the next time you go out, and be sure to ask how they’re doing – from a safe distance, of course.
Acknowledge stress and release it
A long holiday to-do list paired with caregiving responsibilities and extra safety measures can bring out your inner Scrooge. You may feel overwhelmed.
Consider lowering your holiday expectations and obligations this year. If you’re frustrated, use that emotion as fuel and take action. Call a friend and talk about it. Say your feelings out loud. Taking care of stress in a positive, healthy way begins with acknowledging and expressing it – even laughing about it. You can also blow off steam by going for a brisk walk, a bike ride or singing at the top of your lungs inside your car.
Celebrate in smaller ways
Keeping or creating a few special traditions is good for your health and well-being as well as the person you care for, according to Atria's Christy Phillips, PhD in gerontology. Celebrating in smaller ways can help keep the holiday season stress-free. See if a few of the ideas below work for your situation. Most important, choose to do only as much as feels manageable to you.
- Plan a virtual party with family and friends, complete with decorations, holiday music and food.
- Mail gifts ahead of time so you can watch recipients open them via video chat.
- Email family members the lyrics to favorite holiday songs and schedule a virtual sing-along.
- Set aside time to share memories of holidays past.
- Create holiday-themed art together.
- Write and mail holiday cards.
- Play your favorite seasonal music.
- Binge watch some holiday movies.
- Bake your favorite pies, cookies or other desserts, just because. Package up extras to give as gifts or donations.
- Cook a traditional meal together, or have fun coming up with a new dish.
- Dust off your most festive, sparkly duds and dress up for holiday photos. Share them with family and friends via email, group texts or social media.
- Share what you’re grateful for during a gratitude ceremony.
- “Attend” virtual religious services.
Keep in mind, all traditions were new at one time!
There may come a day when full-time caregiving is no longer the solution for you or the one in your care. If and when you’re ready to consider additional options, Atria is here to answer your questions and provide guidance about our communities and senior living in general.
To see how Atria is creating the safest possible environment for residents and staff, visit AtriaSafeTogether.com.