by Jerri Rosenfeld, LMSW and Rita Hayes, LCSW, courtesy of the Ken Hamilton Caregivers Center
Every year the holiday season brings unique challenges to almost everyone. But for caregivers who have loved ones in the hospital or are caretaking someone at home, the holidays can be a time of stress, frustration and exhaustion, instead of peace and good will. This year everyone in our community has struggled with Hurricane Sandy, experiencing power-outages for many days, cold temperatures, and extensive damage to homes and property. While everyone is recuperating from the aftermath and tremendous stress of this event, the holiday season is quickly approaching.
If you have a loved one in the hospital during the holidays, you may experience the additional stress of visiting them in the hospital, concern about their well-being, as well as trying to maintain family holiday traditions. Needless to say, this combination can be extremely overwhelming.
Tips for Caregivers, Family and Friends
Here are some tips that you may find helpful while your loved one is in the hospital during the holidays. Remember for safety reasons, it’s very important to check with hospital staff before you bring any items into the hospital room.
1) Bring small gifts to your family member if they are well enough to un-wrap the item.
2) Bring something pleasant and safe as a decoration for their hospital room.
3) Bring in some comforts of home, such as your loved one’s favorite pajamas, blankets or pillow.
4) Deliver their favorite snacks or holiday food that fits within any dietary restrictions.
5) If you think it will raise their spirits, assemble a photo album of pictures from previous holidays.
6) If religious, bring in a recording of a religious service, or watch one on television.
7) Play some holiday music or watch a favorite holiday movie together.
8) If family is unable to visit, reach out to the volunteer department for visitors.
Gift Suggestions for hospitalized family members
Entertainment: Books, magazines, music, movies, crossword puzzles, and playing cards.
Enjoyment: Get well cards, holiday cards, and small gifts.
Gift of Service: Have someone offer to run an errand for your loved one – this can feel very supportive when in the hospital. If your family member needs information about a community resource, you can offer to assist them in gathering information.
Those who provide care to loved ones in the community also experience additional stress during the holiday season. The demands of caregiving on a daily basis is tremendous, therefore holiday expectations can increase the demands of entertaining, cooking, gift buying, etc.
Of great importance to all caregivers is taking care of oneself and paying close attention to emotional needs. This might include support from social networks, maintaining communication with others, and identifying ways to reduce the demands placed on you as you approach the holidays.
Here are some tips that may be useful:
- Consider modifying some holiday traditions by enlisting the help of friends and family to assist with shopping, cooking, and household chores. Perhaps have a “pot-luck” holiday meal instead of doing all the work yourself.
- Set manageable expectations for the holidays. Prevent over-taxing yourself in order to maintain traditional celebrations by making a plan that is realistic for you to implement.
- Ask for and accept help! Let others know ways they can be helpful to you. Possibly include a note about your loved ones’ condition in a holiday card. This may invite others to offer assistance.
- Maintain your social connections. Support helps reduce isolation and can be helpful in managing stress.
- Get enough rest and do some type of exercise on a regular basis.
Ideally, caregivers need to have daily, weekly, and monthly breaks from caregiving. Consider yoga, meditation, support groups, lunch with a friend, meeting someone for tea, taking a quiet drive, walking in nature, etc.
The Ken Hamilton Caregivers Center is available to help, whether you have a loved one at Northern Westchester Hospital or not. We can offer assistance and support to family and friends during the holidays. You can also call us at 914.242.8128.