Caregiver Tips for a Less Stressful Holiday Season

  • November 10, 2017

by Carolyn Chambers, TBI Service Coordinator, Memphis area


Thanksgiving through the first week of January is a special time of the year for family gatherings, parties, and holiday celebrations. There can be a great deal of confusion for anyone during the holidays, with the hustle and bustle of preparing for extra company, cooking special meals and wanting to be a good host while trying to enjoy the whole experience. As much as the family may look forward to this time of happy occasions, it can be a particularly stressful and demanding time for caregivers who want to provide the best possible quality of life for a loved one. For some it can be a period of depression when thoughts are more focused on losses and inabilities. Here are some tips to help caregivers enjoy a less stressful Holiday season.

Try to include your loved one in some holiday preparation. Give him or her something to do that is within their abilities and will promote positive self-esteem. Using a journal or calendar to record activities, making out a simple budget and shopping list before going to the bank and mall can help make shopping a fun activity.  

Maintain a sense of familiarity. Go easy on the decorations and don’t rearrange the furniture too much to accommodate Christmas trees. Changing familiar surroundings can lead to confusion, especially for someone with memory problems or physical challenges. Extension cords, fragile decorations, and stacks of presents can be hazards to those with limited mobility.

Try to limit the number of guests in your home at one time and make sure someone is always aware of the whereabouts of your loved one. If s/he tends to wander, there is the possibility this could happen when you think someone else is watching your loved one.

Plan rest periods. Don’t forget that increased activity during the holidays may be more fatiguing than usual so plan rest periods accordingly. This is very important when cognition and behavior are problems. Fatigue often increases confusion that can result in an outburst or other kinds of unpleasant behaviors.  

Prepare in advance. Avoid crowded places, loud noises, and exposure to bright flashing lights, particularly laser holiday lighting displays, to help minimize cognitive/behavioral issues that are problematic and might possibly trigger seizures.  

Be flexible. Parties, holiday family dinners, and open house gatherings are often scheduled at times that do not coincide with routine mealtimes and may present a problem for those whose mealtimes are more rigidly structured. It may be necessary to provide snacks, make adjustments to the time prescription medications are taken and help with monitoring to avoid overeating and to avoid alcohol consumption that may alter the effectiveness of prescription medications and/or increase the risk for seizures.  

Ask for help! Families with unrelieved caregiving responsibilities may be unable to attend functions as in the past and in some cases refuse invitations for fear of embarrassing social skills lapses on the part of their loved one. Don’t try to take on all the responsibilities of caring for your loved one and preparing for the holidays. Asking a neighbor or other relative to stay with your loved one for a few hours while you get some shopping done can make a huge difference between an enjoyable and a stressed-out holiday.  

Take time for yourself. Spend an hour in a bubble bath, read a book, go to a movie or meet friends for lunch.  Do something that you enjoy, and have fun. Keep your level of expectations realistic and allow extended family and friends to spend time with the loved one you are caring for. That is something special in itself. The holidays are about fun and enjoyment, so make sure you allow for a good measure of both. 


This article was originally published from the Tennessee Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Network. Get more information about the Tennessee Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Program. 

Disability Rights Tennessee (DRT) is a nonprofit legal services organization that provides FREE services to protect the rights of Tennesseans with disabilities.

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