There's a lot of excitement about the joy the holidays can bring, particularly this year. But at the same time, many families, especially those with fragile loved ones, may be experiencing stress and sadness.
“It's the first time in my life that I have not been with any of my family members. And so that's really difficult and tricky for us,” said Amy Goyer, a family and caregiving expert with AARP.
Goyer isn’t alone. More than three quarters of caregivers are making alternative plans this holiday season because of the pandemic.
Goyer says to avoid all or nothing thinking. Instead, focus on traditions most important to your loved ones.
“For one family member, the decorations are the most important part, for another one, it’s the family movie night,” she said. “It might be that the meals are the most important thing. The music, you know, the religious services. Find out what's most important and try to prioritize ways that you can adapt.”
For loved ones outside the home, increase how often you talk to them. Decorate outside their window or mail them decorations. Do holiday traditions like reading a story, watching a movie or sharing Christmas morning coffee over video.
“I know one caregiver who got a bunch of greeting cards and she addressed them all from different people and gave them to the facility and they're giving them to her brother who lives in a memory care facility,” said Goyer. “Every day he gets a card and that makes him feel like, oh, this is, this is the queue. This is the holiday season, and somebody cares about me.”
Caregivers also need to pay attention to themselves. Well over half are already experiencing negative impacts on their mental health.
“Remember to give to yourself and that that's a good thing to do. In fact, it's required. It's not optional. Because that's how we continue to have within what we need to give to others,” said Goyer.