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Caring for your elderly parents during this holiday season has the potential to create a perfect storm of stress. You want to be inclusive and keep everyone involved, but are afraid of overwhelming your elderly parent at best or getting them sick at worst. It can be tough to know exactly what you should do or how to make changes to your family traditions, event schedule, or guest list this holiday season without disappointing those around you. If this scenario resonates with your feelings about the holidays this season, then this article is for you. We’re going to offer 3 ways to reduce your stress while caring for your elderly parents this holiday season.

Combine Important Holiday Events or Celebrate Virtually
The span of time between Thanksgiving and New Years can traditionally create a calendar full of parties and events. While these invitations will likely decrease in number this season due to the ongoing pandemic, it’s still quite possible to become overwhelmed.

It’s important to remember that gathering in any capacity this year carries a risk. Some options to reduce the frequency of events, obligations, and exposure include:

  • Declining invitations. In 2020, the kindest choice you may make for your aging parents this holiday season is to decline to gather at all. This is the safest option for this year and you are under no obligation to gather, no matter what others (including your parents themselves) may say to the contrary. Remember that you are justified to set the boundaries as you see fit.
  • Combine events and set standards. If declining all invitations is not possible, minimize them. You can combine important gatherings into one celebration and agree to meet under only specific circumstances (ex. outdoor gatherings only, masks required, minimal attendance, no shared utensils, etc.).
  • Celebrate virtually. Celebrations can safely continue online. Staying physically distant does not need to imply or create emotional distance. You can plan gatherings that are completely virtual and/or ask to be included virtually in the physical gatherings that take place. Ask a loved one to bring a smartphone, tablet, or laptop to the event and set an agreed time to call one another. It’s a great way to connect without the physical risks.

If you’re looking for more ideas to keep your loved one safe and engaged this holiday season, click here for our full list of ideas to navigate the holidays this year.

Plan for (and Accept) Imperfection
When caring for aging or ailing parents, it can be tempting to want to stick rigidly to tradition for their sake to enforce a sense of normalcy. But when things start to slip or diverge from the norm, you may feel that you haven’t done enough (or that someone else in your shoes would have done better). But that simply isn’t true and it isn’t fair to yourself to think that way.

There is no such thing as a perfect holiday or a perfect caregiver – you are doing enough. Accept that things may not be perfect this year and just do what you can:  be quick to forgive yourself for imperfection and remember to be present and enjoy this holiday season with your elderly parents. Memories made together are more important than any tradition.

Don’t Forget to Care for Yourself Too
It can be very difficult to prioritize your needs when you’re responsible for others, but you matter too. If you’re feeling overwhelmed this season, you aren’t alone. There are thousands of families in the state of California that are going through the same thing, which means that comfort and support are out there.

Take a break, ask for help, or seek support when you need it. We have a fantastic group of California Caregiver Resource Centers with local information and resources. Find your local Center here.

Closing Thoughts
Caregiving during the holiday in any year isn’t easy. Add a pandemic to the already stressful mix and you may start to feel understandably overwhelmed.  While the situation can often feel isolating, it’s important to remember you’re not alone.  Don’t forget to take a deep breath, set boundaries, and take care of yourself too.

As a caregiver, you’re faced with new challenges every day. The California Caregiver Resource Centers were created with you both in mind and at heart to be a free resource as you navigate the challenging role you’re in. We would love to connect you with your local Center, who can talk more about local programs for caregivers and how they can best support you.

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