Nov 1

Tips to stress less during holiday visits

Senior man, woman with their caregiver at home.Adult children who spend much of the year coordinating and managing care for parents from afar often face holiday visits with some trepidation. Warm feelings of celebrating with loved ones are tempered with some anxiety about the many tasks of holiday preparation.  Mix in worries about whether parents will be in worse condition than at your last visit. Add a list of chores you want to accomplish for them. Throw in thoughts about whether to make it just a fun visit or a time to discuss difficult topics. Before you know it, a family caregiver is stressed before the visit even begins. How can you reduce stress and make the holiday visit an enjoyable time for you and your parents?

  • Simplify – This may be the year to do less decorating and less cooking. A few favorite decorations can provide as much beauty and warmth as a roomful. If other guests are joining for some meals, ask them to bring a “pot luck” dish or add some “take out” prepared foods to the menu.
  • Don’t over-schedule – While it is tempting to attend every local holiday event or visit with every neighbor, plan some down time. Parents are likely accustomed to a quieter schedule and will appreciate some time to follow their normal routine. Use the break to replenish yourself as well. If possible, combine something refreshing for you with something pleasant for you and your parents—take a walk alone and on the way back, pick up some snacks or tea for you and your parents to enjoy together.
  • Enjoy just being together-– We all often are distracted by many demands on our time but you and your parents will likely enjoy the visit more if you strive to “be in the moment” whether it is listening to music together, making soup or flipping through a photo album and reminiscing.
  • Chores – As you do household chores such as changing batteries in smoke detectors or installing shower grab bars, reassure your parents that your assistance is to help them live safely as independently as possible. This will prevent hurt feelings that you are trying to take too much control of their lives.
  • Difficult topics- If difficult topics need to be discussed to help with their well-being, think carefully about when to broach the subject. Obviously, when you first arrive or right before you leave are not ideal times. Find a time when everyone is well rested, feeling comfortable with each other and not in a rush to do something else.
  • Take care of you- You will be the one traveling and preparing for the family gathering. Stay mindful of your needs and desires to make the time meaningful for you. Try to get adequate rest, proper nutrition and make time for events that you enjoy, even if it is not feasible for your parents to join. If possible, make plans for a friend or another family member to visit with your parents while you go an event or gathering.

We hope you savor the time with your parents and enjoy special moments of the holidays.