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Holiday Hacks for the Busy Family Caregiver

Posted by Haley Kotwicki on December 4, 2017 at 10:53 AM

Recently, my mom and I were watching the Hallmark channel and discussing upcoming gatherings and parties. By the time we started listing our to-dos for the season, we weren’t feeling the holiday spirit. It seems as you get older, the holidays become less joyous and more laborious -- cooking, cleaning, shopping, decorating, etc. Plus, if you are a family caregiver, then you’re doing the same on behalf of or for your older loved one.

This year, though, I’m going to hack the holidays and beat the system. I want my family to make memories and have fun without everyone being stressed. I can hear you shouting, “Yes, me too!”

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Let’s get started:

Simple Decorations: In previous years, my family would put up stockings, figurines, snow globes, a tiny Christmas village, and a tree with oodles of ornaments, tinsel and lights. When it’s all up, it looks magical, but it is a lot of work. This year, we’ll only decorate the living room with a few decorative pillows and figurines and put up a small tabletop tree. Maybe you could try limiting your decorations like me, or you could use the opportunity to bring together older and younger loved ones and craft holiday decorations.

White Elephant: Instead of stressing to find the perfect gift or buying an impersonal gift card for every family member, I want to add some fun to our celebrations with a game of White Elephant.

White Elephant is perfect if you have lots of nice (but no longer useful) items cluttering your home or love giving gag-gifts. If you have a lot of smart-alecks in your family, this game encourages silly behavior, such as “stealing” gifts you prefer for yourself. There are lots of variations on the rules, so you can personalize the game to your families’ tastes and abilities. For example, you may want little helpers to assist your older loved ones in passing gifts. You could also do a simple exchange, where everyone is given one person to shop for – just confirm everyone is a gift giver and gift receiver.

Pre-Cut Cookies: Whether you’re baking for your children’s school bake sale or to make gifts, it can be time-consuming if you’re making everything from scratch or making several types of cookies. Instead, purchase pre-cut cookies that are ready to bake. If anyone asks why they aren’t homemade, tell them you are enjoying your family time and scaling back.

Online Shopping: When my mom and I were caring for my grandmother, it was difficult to get out and do all the shopping. Pushing my grandma’s wheelchair through slushy snow and crowded malls was quite the workout. If you or a loved one have limited mobility, order gifts and groceries online from the comfort of home. For example, you can order gifts and fresh groceries on Walmart’s website. Walmart will send your presents to your address and have your groceries ready for pick-up, where employees will load your car for free. 

Gift Bags: Wrapping gifts is time-consuming and frustrating, especially for someone like me who ends up with a mess of tape and lumpy presents. So ditch the roll and buy gift bags and tissue paper, making the whole process easy. Gift bags are also more manageable for older loved ones to put together and easier to take apart as pulling off wrapping paper can be difficult for those who have weaker hands or arthritis.

Recipes: If your parent, grandparent or older loved one is having trouble finding a present for a relative, ask if your loved one if they have family recipes they would like to pass down. If they have the recipe card, laminate and/or frame it. If they have it memorized but not written down, type or write it down on stationary or a recipe card, then laminate and/or frame it. You could even schedule a day where your older loved one and the gift recipient cook together and make memories.

On the other hand, what do you give to your older loved one? It’s true that most older adults don’t want material things. They just want to spend time with their family: chatting, laughing and reminiscing. To learn how you can gift your time and attention, download our free interactive guide, “What Are Meaningful Activities?”.

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Topics: Aging, Caregiving, Holidays, Activities and Lifestyle

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