The truth is that many caregivers reading this might react, “What holidays?”. Caregiving doesn’t operate on a normal schedule with holiday breaks. Those who work in the caregiving industry are needed by their clients at all days and times of the year. Often, the in-home caregiver will be with the client on weekends, at night and during various holiday times throughout the year, or be called upon to help out with other client needs at an agency to enable colleagues to take a break. For family caregivers, it is hard to find time off and holidays in particular may be precious time with a loved one who might not be around for many years to come.
During the holidays, we pay special tribute to caregivers. We say thanks to the special caregivers, medical providers and emergency responders who help keep us all safe year-round. And, to family caregivers, who often get little thanks, we acknowledge all you do for your loved at the holidays and throughout the year.
Tips for Caregivers at the Holidays
If you are a professional home caregiver:
Talk to your employer well in advance of the holiday about any time that you might want to take off. Remember that the agency will need plenty of time to plan coverage for clients in need and will typically have lots of requests for time off. At EasyLiving, we reach out to families early to explain our holiday policies. We try to get a handle on client needs so we can schedule accordingly.
Know your agency’s policies regarding holidays and how holiday pay is calculated.
Agencies might offer incentives/rewards if you are willing to work a holiday. For example, this year EasyLiving has done iPad drawings for caregivers who are willing to take on-call duty for various holidays.
Think about ways to make your time with clients during the holidays special. Ask clients about holiday memories, attend a holiday event, listen to holiday music or bake a holiday treat together. When possible, check with clients’ families about family traditions and recipes so you can help the client carry on those traditions and memories.
If you are a family caregiver:
Don’t overload yourself with holiday responsibilities.
Be realistic about holiday celebrations and traditions. You may have to modify plans and expectations.
Seek help from other family members. Are you the local daughter who provides care most of the time? Your sisters and brothers may be able to get time away during the holidays to visit. It could be a chance to celebrate together, and perhaps give you a small break. If family members haven’t visited in a while, it may help to give them a “heads up” about what to expect so they are not startled by the changes in your parent.
Be aware of your stress levels and possible depression. This is important all the time, but the holidays can be especially stressful and emotional. If you are feeling isolated, seek support. There are online support communities and telephone helplines that can help even if you have a hard time getting out of the home.
What can you do to help caregivers during the holidays?
Keep in touch with those you know who are caregiving: check in on them, offer concrete help and a listening ear.
Be aware that it might be difficult for a caregiver to attend the usual festivities. Consider alternative ways to make the holiday merry for the caregiver (for example, if he/she has to miss the cookie swap or party, can you bring a dish or plate of cookies over later?). Or, are there ways to help so the person is able to attend if desired?
Give the gift of time. Where feasible, offer to provide some respite so that the caregiver can take a break. Or make a visit…the caregiver may be feeling isolated and some quality time together over coffee and cookies could be all the gift the person needs.
Check out our post Meaningful Giving: Gifts for Seniors and Caregivers for gift ideas.
Ask your home care agency about gift restrictions for professional home caregivers. Most agencies do not permit caregivers to accept gifts from the client or family, other than nominal or homemade gifts/treats. Consider giving the caregiver a nice card outlining your appreciation (and, even better, send a note/copy to their supervisor outlining the positive qualities and contributions of the caregiver).
If your loved one has a professional caregiver, you also may be able to make some suggestions for how they can make the holidays more special for the client. Caregivers tend to appreciate this input as it helps them do a better job, and it can be special to be included in family traditions and background. For example, you can send favorite family recipes or create a scrapbook that the caregiver can look at with the client. Remember, professional caregivers can also help your loved one get out to holiday outings or attend family functions, where feasible.
If a family member or friend is a healthcare worker/caregiver, try to plan holiday festivities at a time that will work for their schedule.
These are just a few tips and ideas for family and professional senior caregivers during holiday times. If you need help with caregiving, give us a call at 727-447-5845 or 813-333-5020. We offer respite for caregivers and senior concierge services to enable seniors to travel and attend family events. For those interested in a caregiving career, check out our Home Care Careers page.
Happy Holidays to you and your family!