Christmas tree, tinsel, lawn lights, carolers, eggnog and bows—all that fa-la-la-la-la can sometimes have the opposite effect and send a caregiver into a funk.
It’s not that you mean to be a Scrooge, but caregiving during the holidays can trigger a lot of “Ghosts of the Past and Future,” (otherwise known as regret and worry) not to mention even more work to your already sleep-deprived self. It’s hard to muster up a cup o’cheer when you’re overwhelmed and you’ve got six dozen cookies to make for the neighborhood party in two days.
First, take a minute to figure out what’s really bugging you.
Is it all the extra work—or is it that you’re worried that this might be your last Christmas together? Sometimes our frustration and fussiness is really covering up fear. But facing that fear and taking a minute to breathe deeply can make it less scary.
Next, figure out what you like best about the holidays.
You might like snow globes. And gingerbread men. If that’s Christmas to you, then only set out your snow globe collection. Who says you need a tree? Spend one afternoon making gingerbread dough and then freeze it. Plan another day when you and your spouse or elder-parent can decorate your gingerbread men. Set up a card table by the fireplace and put all the sprinkles and candies in little bowls. Put on a Perry Como rendition of White Christmas and enjoy that one day.
Caregivers have so much on their plates already that we have to find ways to make Christmas or Chanukah easy—so we don’t wind up resenting it. Let go of that long to-do list and only do what brings you joy. When you share your new ways to celebrate the holidays—simple and easy—you’ll find that other people admire you for bucking the overpriced and overworked system. You could start a trend.
None of us know how many holidays we have left. Spending them with those we love, really being present, and making good memories—that’s what it’s all about.
Sometimes you feel like you’re a lone caregiver—especially when your siblings won’t pitch in. With so much to do—errands, hospital stays, physical therapy, prescription and insurance issues—no wonder it feels like your head is spinning. Add your day-to-day frustrations and relationship concerns to the mix, and you may find yourself vacillating between tears and screams. How do you not harbor hurt and angry feelings toward your sibs when they refuse to help out?
There’s no one magic solution. Every family is different, but I do know that arguing about it probably won’t get you anywhere.
5 Tips to Encourage Your Siblings to Help with Caregiving:
- Give them something specific to do. Ask for one consistent thing—that they take your parent to one appointment a month, the same one so that it’s easy to remember. Ask clearly for their help. If they don’t help out, ask why. Remind them that their parent’s care is meant to be shared.
- Let them throw money at it. So they’re not into hands-on caregiving. Then let them contribute in other ways. Ask them to pay for a housekeeper twice a month, or lawn work. Ask them to pay for respite care once every three months. Give them something ongoing that gives you the most relief—or something they value or would like to get noticed for.
- Focus on relationships first. Don’t be petty and try to isolate your loved one and in turn “punish” them by not allowing them to see their other children. You might not like that your siblings aren’t participating, but your mom or dad needs all of their children. They don’t need to be aware of sibling spats, not when they’re dealing with cancer, dementia, heart disease, or some other catastrophic illness. Encourage your siblings to spend time with their parent regardless of what they do—or don’t do.
- Choose not to fall into the vortex of resentment and anger. Give to your loved one wholeheartedly. Let go of what someone else does or doesn’t do. If they still refuse or avoid, then start to make other plans. Utilize community resources, churches, and neighbors who are willing to pitch in. Be grateful for those who choose to help. Your thoughts and energy are better spent on good thoughts than chewing on the bone of what somebody else should do. In the end, we’re only responsible for our own actions.
- Realize that many people are scared of caring for someone who sick or is dying, so help them get over it. We’re afraid of what we don’t know. It may look like your sibs are selfish and lazy, but it may also be that they don’t know what to do to help. They may feel pushed aside. They may have created all these barriers—I’m busy, I have too much on my plate already, you’re doing it well so why should I bother—in order to avoid what’s painful or uncomfortable. Don’t make caregiving look so miserable! Invite them over to hang out. Have a pizza and movie night. Give them time to warm up to the idea. Give them something small to do and then don’t micro-manage them. Caregivers (and I mean me here) tend to be controlling—it comes with the territory—and we tend to be perfectionists. No wonder they don’t want to get involved. Learn to make it easy and inviting, even when parts of caregiving are clearly not—you dont want to scare them away.
I can’t promise that your brothers and sisters will ever come around. Some don’t. Then it’s your job to pace yourself and find others to help support you and your loved ones. It may not be ideal, but you may find a different kind of community/family to surround yourself with. We can’t control what others choose to do. Decide that you’re caregiving largely because you want to and you believe it’s the right thing to do. Once you start to let go of the “shoulds,” your load somehow gets lighter.