Linda Geist

COLUMBIA, Mo. – As the holidays approach, family caregivers face stressful challenges.

November is National Family Caregivers Month, which recognizes relatives who give assistance to adults with chronic or disabling conditions. It’s a good time for caregivers to set expectations for the upcoming holidays, says Karen Funkenbusch, health and safety specialist for University of Missouri Extension.

AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving estimate that 1 in 5 people in the U.S. are family caregivers.

Good communication and planning can help relieve some of the stress that comes with the hustle and bustle of the holidays. There are still ways to enjoy the holidays despite the routine interruptions that come from caring for a relative. Holiday celebrations may look different from when family members were healthy, but they can remain meaningful, says Funkenbusch.

Here are here suggestions to create new traditions:

• Scale back. You may not need to put up all the holiday decorations that you did in the past. However, put up some decorations that have special meaning to your loved one.

• Keep it simple. Instead of a full dinner with all the trimmings, consider having your meal prepared by the local grocer or a favorite restaurant, or enlist the help of other family members to prepare food for a carry-in dinner.

• Encourage family members to stop by, but request that visits be brief.

• Use social media, your church or other organizations to ask for a card shower for the ill person.

• If it is physically possible and others can help, take your loved one on an outing to see holiday lights and decorations. Call friends or family in advance to let them know you will be making a stop in their driveway and ask them to come out to the car to greet the loved one.

If you are the caregiver, ask other family members and friends for the gift of a few hours to yourself. Don’t lose sight of your own needs, says Funkenbusch. Remind yourself of the worthy work you are doing.

Resources for caregivers:

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