Overwhelmed and Underappreciated: Holiday Stress Saps the Joy Out of Caregiver's Season

Nov 30, 2009, 09:15 ET from AgingCare.com

NAPLES, Fla., Nov. 30 /PRNewswire/ -- The holidays can cause large amounts of stress for people caring for elderly parents (over 34 million Americans). In addition to caregiving duties, they now add shopping, holiday parties and family gatherings to a never-ending to-do list.

Agingcare.com, an online community for caregivers, has seen an increase in stress-related issues on its discussion boards. One AgingCare member said, "I feel more stressed every year...It starts before Thanksgiving and lasts through the New Year. Holiday planning always falls on my shoulders. Last year, Mom was in the hospital, which added to the stress. I keep promising myself to get more involved in something other than caregiving...to recharge myself."

The problem affects people in every community across the country. According to an Agingcare.com survey, 53% of caregivers provide care over 40 hours per week and balance work and children, too. In that same survey, 36% of caregivers reported getting a break of five or less hours from caregiving weekly.

Carol Bursack, community moderator for AgingCare.com, offers advice for weary caregivers.

  • Take a break. Reducing stress is vital to a caregiver's health. Family caregivers have higher illness rates than non-caregiving peers. Respite care offers short-term care for dependent adults and provides the caregiver relief - even more important during the holidays. Types of respite include adult day care, in-home help, and assistance from family and friends.
  • Ask for help. Many caregivers avoid asking for help and try to do everything themselves. Once they ask for help, they find it is easier than expected. Many times, family members and friends are willing to help, but don't know how.
  • Make a "to-do list." Making daily lists helps caregivers stay organized during this busy season.
  • Simplify. Pare down the cookies, leave the bookcase full of Santa figures for another year - but keep the Christmas tree. You can "decorate lite." Caregivers can let family and friends know that the holidays are being simplified this year.
  • Accept imperfection. Caregivers often feel they're not doing enough, that someone else would do better. But no one is perfect. There is no such thing as a perfect caregiver. Caregivers should do their best, then accept and forgive themselves for imperfections.

"This advice ensures that caregivers have time to enjoy the holidays, while also taking care of themselves. This is vital for a caregiver's health and well-being. It can help them be better caregivers who are more rested, healthier -- both physically and mentally -- and less apt to feel resentful," said Bursack.

About AgingCare.com

Agingcare.com is a website and online forum for people caring for their aging parents. As the Facebook for caregivers, Agingcare.com lets those caring for aging parents communicate with each other, get answers from elder care experts and access news, information and products related to caregiving. For more information, visit www.agingcare.com.

To arrange an interview with an AgingCare.com expert, call 239-594-3202 or email editor@agingcare.com.

SOURCE AgingCare.com