The Christmas season is a hectic time for many, due to the preparations and festivities that typically take place. Staying sane, not to mention enjoying this special time of year, is even more of a challenge for those providing care to a chronically ill relative.
Following are suggestions for lightening the load of a caregiver you know:
1. Bake extra holiday treats to share with him or her.
2. Let him know when you are heading out to the grocery store or on other errands, and ask if there is anything he needs.
3. Offer respite for an hour so she can get her hair done or attend church, or for a longer stretch so she can go shopping.
4. Offer to decorate, wrap gifts or perform other holiday-related tasks. If he enjoys these activities, occupy his loved one so he can engage in them without interruption.
5. Offer to address Christmas cards and take them to the post office, or assist her in preparing a newsletter to update relatives and friends.
6. If he plans to entertain, offer to help with preparations and cleanup, or to attend to his loved one during the event so he can mingle with guests.
7. If she does not drive, offer transportation to the mall, or a church event that she would like to attend.
8. Encourage him to practise self-care by eating nutritiously, exercising and getting sufficient rest. For example, bring over a meal or offer to sit with his loved one so he can go for a walk.
9. Surprise her with a treat, such as a rented movie (perhaps a holiday classic) or a poinsettia or other decoration.
10. Ask rather than guess what kind of practical help he could use most; perhaps it is dusting and vacuuming or running errands. If he declines assistance, continue to express your desire to help. Meanwhile, take it upon yourself to deliver a casserole or muffins and, if you are a neighbour, to shovel his walk when you do your own.
Keep in mind that emotional support and your time are the two most valuable gifts you can give a caregiver, not only at Christmas but throughout the rest of the year as well.
Lisa M. Petsche is a Hamilton, Ontario-based clinical social worker and freelance writer specializing in caregiving issues.