The holiday season can be a time filled with nostalgia and tradition, but when you’re caring for an elderly parent or relative, it can also be a time filled with stress and uncertainty. One of the best things you can do to get through the holiday stress is to simplify wherever possible.

Below are some tips to help you make the holidays easier when you’re a caregiver.

Plan Ahead

When trying to manage the holidays with elderly parents or relatives it’s very important to plan ahead. Get in contact with the other family members who usually visit during the holidays.

Prepare them for how your relative may look and feel. If possible, give them a responsibility or active role in the day so that all the managing of symptoms does not fall on you.

Planning ahead also means being prepared for any meltdowns that may occur because of the overstimulation of the day.

Though your parents may love seeing relatives they haven’t seen in a while, it can also overwhelm them and may create anxiety and confusion, especially if they have dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

Pare Down

If you’ve always done big holiday gatherings, this may be the time to consider paring down. If you can’t limit the number of people that will join you for a holiday dinner, perhaps consider having dinner catered or asking guests to bring a dish if you’re hosting.

This is also a good time to simplify tasks such as holiday decorating. Consider putting out only a portion of the usual holiday decorations. This gives you less to manage and will save you a little work when it comes time for post-holiday cleanup.

Keep Daily Routines in Mind

If your loved one has dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, routines are important. The altered schedules and increased activity around the holidays can be disorienting for them. If they’re experiencing sundowning symptoms, this could be even more pronounced.

With this in mind, you’ll want to arrange family gatherings or visitors earlier in the day to avoid getting your loved ones more agitated or confused. Also consider spacing out or limiting the number of events you participate in through the holiday season.


Another holiday theme and activity you can simplify is gift giving. If your family has historically given a lot of gifts at the holidays, maybe this is a good year to limit what you’re giving. Consider doing a name exchange in your family so you’re only buying for one person, instead of several people.

You can also consider gifts that might leave a more lasting impression, like a day at a museum or even something as simple as a dinner out. As your parents and relatives age, you’ll likely find that time spent together is far more valuable than any tangible material items would be.

Prioritize Self-Care

With all the chaos that the holidays can bring, it’s imperative that you put self-care at the top of your list of priorities. Be sure to get enough sleep and eat healthy snacks throughout the day.

Take a few minutes for yourself every day. Even if you only carve out 15 minutes a day to meditate or enjoy a moment alone, it can provide a bit of breathing room and a better ability to deal with all that the holidays may throw at you.

Also, take advantage of respite care options. If you’re a full-time caregiver, take an afternoon off to go see a movie or spend time with a friend.

The holidays can be challenging for anyone, but especially for those who have to care for others. Hopefully, these simple ideas can help make it more manageable and enjoyable for all.

What do you plan to do or not do for the holiday season while caregiving for a loved one? Will your loved one take part in the activities or would they rather enjoy some quiet time together? Please share your thoughts with our community.

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