Recent News

Recent News

Tips for Caregivers to Set and Maintain Boundaries Over the Holidays

December 14, 2023
Family eating together over the holidays

The holiday season can bring a unique set of challenges for those caring for an ill or aging loved one. Throughout the year, the day-to-day demands of caregiving can lead to stress, anxiety and feeling overwhelmed. Routine responsibilities combined with holiday expectations can leave caregivers particularly burned out as the year comes to an end.

Setting boundaries for yourself and others can be a difficult process. It’s natural to feel obligated to maintain traditions, keep friends and family happy and to get the most out the season. However, to stay healthy and care for others, you need to protect your physical and mental well-being. Here are some tips to set and hold boundaries to help you have a more positive holiday experience:

Identify Your Needs

Boundaries help you focus on what you need instead of what everyone else wants. This exercise can be particularly challenging for caregivers who notoriously put themselves last. To help you reflect on what you really want from the season, here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • What traditions are the most important?
  • What brings you and the loved one in your care joy?
  • What do you find overwhelming or stressful?
  • Are there any planned events or activities that can be considered self-care?

Be Realistic

Once you’ve gone through this process, you can decide where to place your efforts and energy. Focus on a few key things and let the rest go. If hosting your large family is something you look forward to all year, you can prioritize this. Just consider adjusting to a potluck instead of taking on a large meal yourself. Similarly, if putting up decorations all around your home feels overwhelming, plan a holiday light tour or visit your city’s decorations to get your festive fix.

Create New

After establishing boundaries, you may feel like some of your traditions are being left behind. Especially if your children or loved ones are disappointed. If this is the case, embrace the opportunity to create something new. Consider activities or traditions that still fit within your idea for the season, but don’t require a lot of preparation or time. For example, help out at the local food bank, scale back your baking and participate in a cookie exchange or host your family for a gratitude ceremony to collectively express your appreciation for each other.

Communicate Clearly  

Be prepared that not all boundaries will be well-received by your friends and family. You don’t need to explain yourself, but you should be clear and specific. This can help to build mutual understanding and prevent future conflict. For example, you may set a concrete timeline for when guests should leave an event you host, let family know you won’t be accepting unannounced visitors this year or that you can’t attend brunch because your loved one typically rests during that time. Saying ‘no’ is hard, but as a caregiver you need to prioritize your time, finances and energy to focus on the things that really matter.

Determining what is most important, letting go and communicating your needs will help you enjoy the holiday season as much as possible. To help combat some of the stress, exhaustion and difficulties that can come with caregiving, allocate time for moments of self-care. Read a book, enjoy a cup of tea, go for a walk and organize respite care to support your health through the season.

If you found this article helpful, you may also want to read: