As storefronts, neighborhoods, and city sidewalks transform into holiday wonderlands, hospice patients and caregivers often feel a range of emotions: disconnect, guilt, depression, loneliness, anger, and fear. Some families want to bypass the holidays completely, while others may want the celebrations to continue as normally as possible.
Whichever path you and your family take this holiday season, it’s important to remember the following tips to help you cope with the holiday season.
Set Realistic Goals
- Let go of “the list” of everything you’ve done in the past or feel you must do.
- Decide on one thing you cannot do without this holiday season, and make sure it happens, such as driving to see holiday lights with music or watching a favorite movie that’s an annual tradition.
- Scale down on decorations, traditions, visitors, and demands on your schedule (plays, pageants, tree lightings, etc.).
- Consider your loved one’s limitations to attend large gatherings and celebrations. Create moments for family members to spend with your loved one, even when they are resting.
- Create a new tradition that can be simple, yet meaningful.
Accept Practical Support
- Set goals with your hospice nurses for the holidays – discuss pain management, the logistics of celebrations or travel, and advice on what has worked for other families.
- If you are hosting one last holiday gathering for your loved one, delegate and simplify! Order a catered meal or have family members bring a potluck. Make clean-up easy with paper plates.
- Consider respite care. This short-term coverage needs to be approved and pre-arranged by your hospice provider. The caregiver may need respite to travel, recover from exhaustion or illness themselves, or take care of other responsibilities. Talk with your hospice nurse or social worker if you would like more information.
Protect Your Physical & Emotional Well Being
- Plan for extra rest. Eat healthy food. Exercise regularly. Enough of these three things will help you have energy and wellbeing.
- Seek and accept emotional support from loved ones and your support system. Have someone safe you can talk to about your emotions.
- Plan breaks or simple diversions in your daily routine.
- If you can’t physically get away, find ways for self-care like a long bath, tea and a good book, or practicing deep breathing techniques.
As a caregiver of a hospice patient, grief comes in unpredictable waves. A song or an ornament may spark a fond memory and trigger grief. It’s healthy to honor your grief instead of stuffing it down. Realize that a range of emotions is normal as you straddle sadness and the joy of the holiday season.
Adapted from Heart to Heart Hospice. Visit https://hearttohearthospice.com/caring-for-hospice-patients-over-the-holidays/ to read the full article.