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Poulos: The holidays aren’t always ‘Fa, La, La’ for caregivers

Deanne Poulos (above) serves at family caregiver services, Duet: Partners In Health & Aging. (File Photos/DigitalFreePress)
By Deanne Poulos | Point of View

It’s estimated over 53 million Americans are providing unpaid care for a loved one, spending an average of 23.7 hours per week doing so according to the study “Caregiving in the U.S. 2020.”

Valley nonprofit Duet: Partners In Health & Aging works with family caregivers daily, helping them focus on caring for themselves to stay healthy and resilient throughout their difficult journeys tending to a loved one.

This time of year, expectations of cheer can set us up for a let-down of our ho, ho, ho and fa, la, la. If you’re caring for a loved one who requires 24/7 attention, be aware of pitfalls and take pre-emptive steps.

Here are six tips from Duet:

Set realistic expectations
Adjust your mindset. Confront that your situation has changed. If you enjoyed rollicking vintage holiday celebrations in the past, treasure those memories. Be grateful you enjoyed those good ol’ days – and move on to your next chapter.

Simplify, simplify, simplify
Deck less of the halls and trim a smaller tree. You don’t have to take out every decoration and ornament. Bake only one batch of your traditional cookies, then purchase supplementary baked goods. Just say “no, thank you” if an invitation or a request is going to add to your stress – logistically and emotionally.

Ask for gifts
As for gifts for yourself! You deserve gifts for being so nice! No need to sit on Santa’s lap to provide a list to family and friends. Think about a few hours of another family member sitting with your loved one so you can get out of the house for a break, a home-cooked or delivered meal, cleaning your home or doing a load of laundry.

Give yourself gifts
Give yourself a break — 10 minutes of quiet, to get in touch with your higher-self and recharge. Do this at least once a day. More, if you can. And, give yourself a break in terms of allowing yourself to be less-than-perfect. You’re doing the best you can in an extraordinary situation, with no playbook. Even if you feel inadequate, you are doing it. That makes you a superhero.

Anticipate hot buttons
Steer away from triggers that will sadden you or raise your blood pressure. Avoid people who are not empathetic to your circumstance and will give you stress. You have an obligation to care for yourself. Don’t apologize for that. You are as important as any other being.

Focus on what is most meaningful
It’s not about material gifts, parties, eggnog or ugly sweaters … the commitment, dedication and love you’ve demonstrated with the care you give is what matters. Don’t dwell on pining over the past or fretting over the future. In this moment, you have each other. You are together. Embrace the here and now.

Editor’s Note: Ms. Poulos serves at family caregiver services, Duet: Partners In Health & Aging.

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