The Holidays, COVID-19, and Caregiving
Age brings wisdom and experience, but it also brings inevitable feelings of loss. Holidays, in general, can be difficult for many older folks and their caregivers. Memories from the past, changes in routine and the challenges and stressors we currently face can create sadness and disappointment. Caregivers are overwhelmed trying to maintain holiday traditions while ensuring their older loved ones' care and safety. Finding the balance between traditions and the reality of what this holiday season will look like is a challenge.
Even though this year will be unlike other past celebrations, there are still plenty of ways to enjoy this holiday season and keep the ‘spirit’ of the season within us.
- Acknowledge your feelings: The holidays will be different this year. It’s okay to feel sadness or a sense of loss. You can’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season. If you are feeling sad, lonely or isolated, please reach out to others. Call, text or video chat with a friend or family member. There are also many online support groups, websites and virtual events that can provide companionship and support.
- Set reasonable expectations: We need to accept that this is our reality in 2020, and family and friend celebrations will be scaled down. But, it doesn’t mean we can’t find meaning, purpose and joy this holiday season; it just means we have to be adaptable and a little more creative, such a sharing a holiday meal through by video call.
- Simplify your holiday activities: Focus on those activities that hold the deepest meaning to you and your loved ones. Remember, the holidays don’t have to be ‘all or nothing.’ Focus on things that will give you and your older loved one happiness and meaning.
- Involve your loved one as much as possible: If your older loved will be with you this season – or if they live in a care facility and can connect with you via online video – include them in as many of the simple holiday preparations as possible. Try baking a favorite holiday dessert or wrapping gifts ‘together.’
- Accept help: If friends or family offer support...don’t be afraid to say YES! Have a list of tasks handy that others can easily do, such as make a meal, bake holiday cookies, pick-up groceries or help with an outdoor chore.
- Keep self-care a priority: This has been a tough year. Between the fear, anxiety and isolation of the pandemic, and the continual worry about your future, your family and your caregiving responsibilities, it’s easy to lose sight of your own health and well-being. But taking time out for you – whatever reduces your stress, clears your mind and restores an inner calm – is well worth the effort.
- Understand the risks: If an older loved one will be joining you this holiday, it’s essential to weigh the risks to their health. According to the CDC, “older adults and people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions like heart or lung disease or diabetes are at a higher risk for developing more serious complications from COVID-19 illness.” Take all necessary precautions to protect them– social distancing, mask wearing, and hand washing are just the basics. Don’t forget to outline a plan for your older loved ones’ care in case you should become sick: identify family or friends that could step in; keep an updated care plan with all the necessary medical information and research; and keep a list of respite and long-term care facilities your loved one could go to in a worst-case scenario. Take the same precautions for your loved one: do you have a plan if they should get sick?
You can still have a joyous, safe holiday. This season, emotions and stress are running high. Try to stay in the moment and celebrate the things that represent the ‘true meaning’ of the season – family, home and time together – whether in person or virtually with those we love.
There is no doubt that 2020 has tested our resilience! And with the holidays just around the corner, our resilience will be tested again. No matter what this holiday season looks like for you – I wish you a peaceful and healthy holiday.
You can learn more about the ways UK HR Work-Life can support you and your caregiving here.