Dr. Sally Brooks Dr. Sally Brooks

Sally L. Brooks, Nursing Center Division Vice President, Physician and Medical Development, shares her suggestions for caregivers and those receiving care from loved ones during the holidays.

Like many others, I am smack dab in the middle of the sandwich generation. The holidays are stressful for caregivers. My father passed this fall but Mom needs me now more than ever. My kids all have school activities that increase over the holidays. Did I mention the shopping, preparation, cooking, etc..?

I am reminded about a speaker’s comments using the acronym CARE.

This acronym applies to both caregivers and those receiving care. (I added my definitions to the acronym used.)

In regard to caregivers:

C: Compassion for your loved one AND oneself. You cannot do it all – the holiday dinner may not be perfect (Why not ask others to help or cater or order out?) but take time to surround yourself with loved ones. The person(s) you care for may have pain, anxiety or other symptoms. They will not always say “please” and “thank you” but know they appreciate you.

A: Awareness of what your body is telling you. If you feel fatigued, you probably are; take a 15-minute nap or meditate. Listen to that “pain in your neck" – it is tension and a warm towel and mental rest may help. Be aware of the person you care for – change in appetite or sleep habits may be a warning sign that you need more help.

R: Realistic. You are an integral link in the chain and need to realize your humanity. Also develop realistic expectations for those you care for: If they cannot make it to the family holiday dinner because they are having a bad day – stop by with leftovers and photos afterwards.

E: Expectations. You can only expect of yourself what most humans can do: you are not Superman or Wonder Woman. You will get impatient and lose your temper – we are human. It does not mean you are not well intended and each day is a new opportunity to do your best.

For the person receiving care:

C: Compassion for those who care for you. They are doing their best. They want to express compassion for you always but sometimes are too busy in the moment to do so.

A: Awareness. Be aware of subtle signals or what your body tells you. Alert your caregiver before it becomes an emergency.

R: Realistic. You need help and sometimes what you’d like to do does not match what you can do on a given day. Just remember, tomorrow is another day!

E: Expectations. Expect that your caregiver will do their best to help you. If they cannot help you achieve all you wanted to do, make a plan for tomorrow or the next day. Expect to feel frustrated with your progress at times.