Evaluate Holiday To-Do Lists To Avoid Caregiver Overload

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • I just started moving “work on my Christmas cards” onto my “to do” list last night (and that’s without having a loved one with Alzheimer’s to care for).  With the holidays just about here, many caregivers probably join in my realization that we still have miles to go (and packages to wrap and treats to cook) before Saturday’s festivities.

    Or maybe not.

    I recently attended a workshop on caregiving during the holidays that was led by Kiri Cook, a regional outreach director for the regional chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. She made several points during the session that were a-ha moments, but one that really struck a nerve was based on a holiday stress assessment published by Michael Plontz on Caregiver.com. During the presentation, Kiri suggested that this assessment could help caregivers who assist people with dementia prioritize holiday tasks and, thus, make the holidays more relaxing and joyful.

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    The assessment, which I’ve linked to here and which was created by the SIDS Network, Inc., breaks down the holiday job list into categories so that caregivers can evaluate the true meaning of a holiday tradition in their lives. The evaluative questions are:

    • Would the holidays be the same without it?
    • Is this something you want to do differently?
    • Do you do it out of habit, tradition, free choice, or obligation?
    • Is it a one person job, or can it be shared?
    • Who is responsible for seeing that it gets done?
    • Do you like doing it?

    The “to do list” included in the assessment is pretty comprehensive, including making homemade holiday gifts, attending parties, sending holiday cards, and attending special or traditional church services. And it definitely got me thinking.

    For instance, when I was caregiving for my mother, I didn’t have time to do a lot of shopping for presents. At that point, I made a decision to only buy presents only for family members and gift cards for my friends’ young children. I also started making large donations in honor of my friends as a group to 4-5 different types of non-profits – an arts group, an environmental group, an international group, a children’s group, and the Alzheimer’s Association. I included a note about the donation in my Christmas card. I receive a lot of positive responses from my friends, many of whom would tell you that they really didn’t need another present and actually preferred to help a worthwhile cause.

    And the amount of stress that I was placing on myself to find the perfect present evaporated by taking this route (which was equally as important to me). That stress, when combined with caregiving, previously had made the holidays a time of stress, instead of a time of joy.

    So take a few moments to evaluate your holiday routine? What tasks can you drop that you really don’t enjoy doing and won’t make a difference in making the holiday festive? What tasks can you share with others? And what tasks make the holidays special, joyous, and worthwhile? Make sure to put this last group on the top of your “to-do” list.

  • And on that note, I’m off to work on addressing those Christmas cards!

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Published On: December 20, 2010