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Holiday Tips to Beat Caregiver Stress

We’re in the midst of that bustling holiday season and caregivers can be overwhelmed by additions to their already busy schedule.  In fact, a study by MIT’s AgeLab and AARP’s Public Policy Institute found that caregivers were more likely to report feeling stressed and worried than non-caregivers.

“During the holidays we often take on the roles of host and guest, which come with certain social expectations and responsibilities,” says Amy Goyer, AARP’s family and caregiving expert. “Add these holiday roles to the dozen of roles caregivers are already playing every day—nurse, financial planner, personal assistant, etc.—and the stress can quickly spiral out of control.”

Goyer addresses these challenges with helpful tips and suggestions for happier holidays:

Anticipate your own holiday hot buttons: Are there holiday activities or toxic relatives that trigger stress? Minimize the drama, don’t try to resolve longtime family problems over the holidays, try short encounters and develop quick exit strategies.

Keep self-care at the top of the list: It’s easy to let this slip when you’re even busier than usual. Keep it simple and incorporate it into your daily caregiving routine if possible.

Plan ahead and focus on what is most meaningful: Perfection is not the goal of the holidays—joy is! Cramming more into your already crazy schedule can push you over the edge, so consider what is really doable before you commit.

Ask for help for yourself and those you care for: Even if you don’t usually pay for help, consider doing so now, since hiring someone to assist for a few hours can be a huge relief.

Start new traditions: Instead of focusing on what you’re not doing, try doing something new. Give the gift of time or attention rather than costly presents. Attend a holiday concert you’ve never gone to before.

Find more holiday tips for caregivers on the AARP Home & Family Caregiving portal.

Source: AARP (www.aarp.org). To find an array of information to help caregivers deal with their sometimes challenging role, visit the AARP Home & Family Caregiving Portal (aarp.org/caregiving) and the AARP Caregiver Assistance Toolkit (caregiving.adcouncil.org).

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