More than 16 million family members and friends currently serve as Alzheimer’s caregivers in the U.S. As the holiday season approaches, there are easy ways to support caregivers that can ease their burden and help make the holidays a joyous time.
“Holidays can be stressful for all of us, but they can be especially demanding for caregivers,” says Katie Badeau, director of care consultations at the Alzheimer’s Association Western New York chapter. “It’s easy to become frustrated and dread the commotion of the holidays, but small gestures and a little bit of time can be tremendously helpful to a caregiver.”
The Alzheimer’s Association offers tips for families that can help caregivers during the holiday season:
1. Build on traditions: Caregivers may feel overwhelmed by maintaining traditions. Experiment with new traditions that might be less stressful or a better fit for the caregiver. For example, turn the traditional holiday dinner into a lunch.
2. Adjust expectations. The stress of caregiving responsibilities layered with holiday traditions can take a toll. If a caregiver has traditionally hosted family celebrations, offer to host instead.
3. Give them a break. Make a standing appointment to give caregivers a break. Offer to spend time with the person living with Alzheimer’s to allow the caregiver a chance to run holiday errands or engage in an activity that helps he or she recharge.
4. Check in regularly. It’s easy for people to lose touch during the holidays. Calling to check in, sending a note or stopping by for a visit can make a big difference in a caregiver’s day and help them feel supported.
5. Tackle holiday to-do lists. Caregivers are often overwhelmed by the demands of caregiving and it can be hard for them to find time to complete simple tasks that others may take for granted. Offer to tackle a caregiver’s holiday to-do list – cooking, cleaning, gift shopping or wrapping.
6. Adapt gift giving. Caregivers often neglect their own well-being. Select gifts that can help them take care of themselves and provide some relief. For example, gift a household chore service or meal delivery service.
Caregiving needs will intensify and become more demanding as Alzheimer’s progresses. While it’s important to check in and support caregivers throughout the year, offering additional help during this busy time of year can ensure that caregivers have a reliable and flexible support network.
To learn more about Alzheimer’s Association resources, visit www.alz.org or call the free 24/7 Helpline, which is available nights, weekends and through all holidays, at 1-800-272-3900.