Managing Caregiver Stress Over the Holidays

The holiday season is a notoriously stressful time of year for many, especially those of us who help the ones we love as family caregivers. In observation of November as Family Caregiver Month, this blog post discusses strategies and solutions you can use to make this holiday season a happy, healthy time for you and your loved ones.  Caregiver Stress Over the Holidays

Identifying Caregiver Stress

As a family caregiver, it is critical to not only monitor your loved one’s well being, but regularly “check in” on your own stress levels and address stressors before they impact your ability to provide care.

Since family caregivers often put the needs of their loved one before their own, it’s easy to miss the early warning signs of caregiver stress. It is critical for family caregivers to periodically step back and evaluate their own well being. Signs of caregiver stress include:

  • Feeling overwhelmed or constantly worried
  • Feeling tired most of the time
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Gaining or losing a lot of weight
  • Becoming easily irritated or angry
  • Losing interest in activities you used to enjoy
  • Feeling sad
  • Having frequent headaches, bodily pain or other physical problems
  • Abusing alcohol or drugs, including prescription medications

Click here for a quick caregiver stress self-test from the Alzheimer’s Association.

Stress Management Strategies

  • Remember: You are not alone

Being a family caregiver for a loved one can be incredibly rewarding work and an opportunity to give back to those who helped shape us into the people we are today.  In fact, more Americans than ever are choosing to act as family caregivers and more than 80 percent of all in-home long term care is currently provided nonprofessional caregivers.

With that in mind, understand that there are thousands of other family caregivers in the country facing the same challenges as you.  Rather than feeling isolated, consider reaching out to other family caregivers either in your community, or online.  One of the most popular online caregiver forums can be found on AgingCare’s website, where thousands of family caregivers ask questions, trade advice and at times simply vent about their challenges.  Reading these accounts can not only net you useful advice, but serve as a helpful reminder that you are not experiencing these challenges alone.

Schedule the holiday run-up with a calendar

Shopping and preparing your household for the holidays can be stressful for any family, especially if you are a caregiver responsible for getting a loved one to medical appointments and other important outings.

In order to avoid getting overwhelmed as the holidays grow nearer, consider setting up a 1-2 month calendar somewhere in your home.  Fill the calendar with the following information:

  • Any important medical appointments or other outings your loved one must attend with your help
  • Any recurring errands you must accomplish on certain days (e.g. trips to the pharmacy)
  • Any travel days (both visits out of town and guests that will be visiting your home)
  • Daily care activities you must perform with your loved one, such as physical therapy exercises or medication you must help administer (be sure to include an estimate for how long these tasks will take and when they must happen)

With these tasks marked down, you should have a much clearer idea of what you need to accomplish every day.  If you need to shop for a big family gathering or to purchase gifts for loved ones, start slotting shopping trips into days with fewer mandatory activities.

By visually organizing everything you need to accomplish over the holiday season, you will be much better equipped to manage your time and still provide your loved one with the best possible care.

  • Consider and schedule respite care early in the season

“Respite Care” involves bringing in a caregiver from outside the home to care for a loved one for a short period of time (typically between four and 12 hours), giving the family caregiver an opportunity to rest and/or focus on other tasks and errands they cannot accomplish while at their loved one’s side.

While some family caregivers have concerns about bringing in outside help to care for their loved ones, it is important to remember that as a family caregiver, you know the needs of your loved one better than almost anyone else – sharing this knowledge with an outside caregiver means you can create the best possible conditions for successful respite care.

The easiest way to make respite care a success is to begin planning for it well before you need the services. This lead time will allow you to clearly explain your loved one’s needs, find a trustworthy home care agency and caregiver, and build a respite care schedule that gives you the time you need to tackle your holiday tasks.

Remember, the holidays are a busy time for family and professional caregivers alike.  Rather than waiting just a week or two before the holidays to try and schedule respite care and struggling to find available caregivers on the fly, start setting up plans now to ensure a smooth experience during the height of the holiday season.

Additional Resources

  • For more general information on how to better manage family caregiver stress, be sure to read the following post from last year, Managing Caregiver Stress
  • For more information about organizing care between family, neighbors and others who can help, visit

SelectCare Home Care Services hopes you found these tips useful this holiday season.  Our team of home health care experts have been helping family caregivers and their loved ones for more than 30 years, offering everything from short-term respite care and transportation assistance to around-the-clock nursing services that allow older New Yorkers to live happier, healthier lives in the comfort of their long-time homes.

To learn more about SelectCare’s services and how our team can help your family this holiday season, call SelectCare today or request a free in-home care guide.  Our team is also happy to discuss general questions you might have as a family caregiver – remember, you are not alone!