Holiday celebrations can be disruptive for any family, but caregiving families can be particularly affected, according to Dr. Vicki Rackner, author of "The Personal Health Journal." The season of joy and interaction with family and community can create more burdens for caregivers and can create reminders of alienation and loneliness. Caregivers frequently fall victim to "holiday traps," preconceived ideas about how the holidays should be and what should happen. Here are a few of these common traps, as well as some ideas about how to avoid them:
Planning for the worst. Thinking that this might be the loved one's last holiday, and going overboard with that idea in mind.
Trying to create picture-perfect scenes. There really is no perfect holiday celebration, but caregivers can certainly establish rules that work for their situation. Ask family members for one or two ideas that will make the holiday special for them.
Spending the way out of guilt. For caregivers that are caught between two generations, the most obvious solution to ease pangs of guilt is to spend.
This only works in the short-term, and eventually feelings of guilt will return with a vengeance. Teach children that the holidays are about spending time with loved ones, and use the season as an opportunity to impress upon them the joy that comes from giving.
Forcing happiness. Caregivers feel pressure to act as though everything is fine, even if it isn't. Acknowledge sadness, anger, and disappointment. Covering these emotions doesn't make them go away.
Overdoing social obligations. Set limits, and don't be afraid to say no. The pressure to accept every invitation can be overwhelming. Why not suggest a separate get-together, after the holiday season, when everyone has more free time?
The Senior Connection is a column provided by the Clinton County Office for the Aging. For more information about services for senior citizens, contact their office at 135 Margaret St., Suite 105, Plattsburgh or call them at 565-4620. Information is also periodically provided by the Behavioral Health Services North Caregiver Resource Center. They may be reached at 565-4543 or 565-4625.