More than 16 million family members and friends are serving as Alzheimer’s caregivers in the United States. As families approach the holiday season, there are easy ways to support caregivers, ease the burden of caregiving and help make the holidays a joyous time for everyone.
“Holidays can be stressful for all of us, but they can be especially demanding for caregivers,” says Ruth Drew, director of information and support services at the Alzheimer’s Association. “It’s easy to get lost in the hustle and bustle of the holidays, but little gestures can go a long way and can be easier than you think — just one hour of help can make a big difference for a caregiver.”
An Alzheimer’s Association survey reports that many caregivers are not getting the help and support they need. An overwhelming 84 percent of caregivers say they would like more support in caring for someone with Alzheimer’s, especially from family members.
The Alzheimer’s Association offers the following tips for families to help ease the burden on caregivers this holiday season:
1. Build on traditions.
Caregivers may feel overwhelmed by maintaining traditions. Experiment with new traditions that might be less stressful or a better fit for the caregiver. For example, turn the traditional holiday dinner into a lunch.
2. Adjust expectations.
The stress of caregiving responsibilities layered with holiday traditions can take a toll. If a caregiver has traditionally hosted family celebrations, offer to host instead.
3. Give them a break.
Make a standing appointment to give caregivers a break. Offer to spend time with the person living with Alzheimer’s to allow the caregiver a chance to run holiday errands or engage in an activity that helps him or her recharge.
4. Check in regularly.
It’s easy for people to lose touch during the holidays. Calling to check in, sending a note or stopping by for a visit can make a big difference in caregivers’ day and help them feel supported.
5. Tackle holiday to-do lists.
Caregivers are often overwhelmed by the demands of caregiving and it can be hard for them to find time to complete simple tasks that others may take for granted. Offer to tackle a caregiver’s holiday to-do list — cooking, cleaning, gift shopping or wrapping.
6. Adapt gift giving.
Caregivers often neglect their own wellbeing. Select gifts that can help them take care of themselves and provide some relief. For example, gift a household chore service or meal delivery service.
To learn more and access resources, visit www.alz.org, or call the Alzheimer’s 24/7, free Helpline — even during the holidays — at 800-272-3900.
Caregiving needs will intensify and become more demanding as Alzheimer’s progresses. While it’s important to check in and support caregivers throughout the year, offering additional help during this busy time of year can ensure that caregivers have a reliable and flexible support network.