Coping with Feelings of Guilt during the Holiday Season

December 19, 2014

It’s safe to say that we all feel some level of stress during holiday time, no matter how far we plan ahead. But if you’re a caregiver with an elderly relative living in a community or on their own, you are also apt to feel guilt – at not visiting enough, at not including them in your holiday activities, or at getting caught up in your own family or work obligations.

Depending on their level of awareness, your family member can feel guilty, too – for feeling like a hassle or a burden, or even for not wanting to leave the security of their community to celebrate with family. And both parties can suffer simply from the burden of unrealistic holiday expectations that can never be met.

Take a deep breath – there are ways out of the guilt trap!

PLAN: Map out what needs to get done this month – gifts wrapped and shipped, party obligations, events at your mom’s assisted living community, family gatherings – and prioritize what you absolutely need to do, and what you can delegate to family or community members. You don’t need to do it all!

SHARE: Plan a conference call with family members/community caregivers and talk about who’s available to visit Dad, when. If possible, plan a series of short, separate visits by small groups – and above all, create a plan you can collectively stick to and that your elderly loved one can count on. If Dad’s able, have an open and positive conversation with him that sets realistic expectations about holiday visits and logistics, so that he feels part of the plan and knows what to look forward to.

SIMPLIFY: If you’re arriving to help decorate, minimize the flashy decorations and skip the flashing lights. Wires and decorative items can be tripping hazards anyway, and holiday lights can be disconcerting or even frightening. If Mom’s tradition of cookie baking is too much for her this year, bring baked cookies and invite her to help decorate them.

MODIFY TRADITIONS … and learn to say no! Turn your customary neighborhood holiday dinner into a cider and donut party; let another class parent lead the kindergarten craft making this year; skip that last-minute trip to the mall for Secret Santa gifts, and have the kids help you make thumbprint cookies instead.

Want to learn more? Check out this helpful video from the Alzheimer’s Care Resource Center: