OPINION: The Holidays Aren’t Always ‘Fa, La, La’ for Caregivers

By Deanne Poulos

December 7, 2023

By Deanne Poulos, Family Caregiver Services, Duet: Partners In Health & Aging

Over 53 million Americans are estimated to be providing unpaid care for a loved one, spending an average of 23.7 hours per week doing so, according to the study “Caregiving in the U.S. 2020.”  

This time of year, expectations of cheer can set us up for a let-down of our ho, ho, ho and fa, la, la. If you’re caring for a loved one who requires 24/7 attention, be aware of pitfalls and take pre-emptive steps.  

Valley nonprofit Duet: Partners In Health & Aging works with family caregivers daily, helping them focus on caring for themselves to stay healthy and resilient throughout their difficult journeys tending to a loved one. 

Here are six tips from :                          

1. Set realistic expectations

Adjust your mindset. Accept that your situation has changed. If you enjoyed rollicking vintage holiday celebrations in the past, treasure those memories. Be grateful you enjoyed those good ol’ days – and move on to your next chapter.

2. Simplify, simplify, simplify

Deck fewer halls and trim a smaller tree. You don’t have to take out every decoration and ornament. Bake only one batch of your traditional cookies, then purchase supplementary baked goods. Just say “no, thank you” if an invitation or a request is going to add to your stress – logistically and emotionally.

3. Ask for gifts

…for yourself! You deserve gifts for being so nice! No need to sit on Santa’s lap to provide a list to family and friends. Think about asking for another family member to sit with your loved one for a few hours so you can get out of the house for a break, a home-cooked or delivered meal, cleaning your home, or doing a load of laundry.

4. Give Yourself Gifts

Give yourself a break – 10 minutes of quiet, to get in touch with your Higher Self and recharge. Do this at least once a day—more, if you can. And, give yourself a break by allowing yourself to be less-than-perfect. You’re doing your best in an extraordinary situation, with no playbook. Even if you feel inadequate, you are doing it. That makes you a superhero.

5. Anticipate hot buttons

Steer away from triggers that will sadden you or raise your blood pressure. Avoid people who are not empathetic to your circumstance and will give you stress. You have an obligation to care for yourself. Don’t apologize for that. You are as important as any other being.

6. Focus on what is most meaningful

It’s not about material gifts, parties, eggnog or ugly sweaters…The commitment, dedication and love you’ve demonstrated with the care you give is what matters. Don’t dwell on pining over the past or fretting over the future. In this moment, you have each other. You are together. Embrace the here and now.

Bonus tip: we’re here to help

Duet: Partners In Health & Aging offers family caregivers support groups to help. Groups meet in person or virtually, and you can share camaraderie with others who “get” what you are going through. 

You can express your frustrations without judgment. You will be guided to resources and learn coping strategies.  To find out more about available groups, visit: www.duetaz.org or call 602-274-5022. 

Duet’s Meaning & Hope Institute empowers all dementia family caregivers to better care for themselves, especially those who are isolated, through access to a community of support and vital resources. You can learn more at www.meaningandhope.org.  


  • Deanne Poulos

    Deanne Poulos, former radio news anchor and writer, transitioned from her career to care for her ailing mother. Overwhelmed, she joined a Duet support group, finding solace and tips among peers. Post her mom's passing, Deanne joined Duet as the Family Caregiver Services Manager, applying her diverse skills to help others in her Phoenix community.



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