Caring for those in Need

Caregiving During the Holidays, the Year 2020

There is no denying that 2020 has not been a typical year. This will include the Holidays. We all thought COVID-19 would be long over by now. We were wrong. This will cause a shift in holiday traditions for many folks, but most will adapt. For people with intellectual or developmental disabilities (IDD), this may be a bit harder. There are ways we can help.

BY Patti Wade | December 2020 | Category: Family, Community + The Holidays

Caregiving During the Holidays, the Year 2020

Focus on what is most meaningful or important to your family. Let some things go and just try to go for the activities that have the deepest meaning. Perfection is not the goal, calmness and happiness are.

Explain what will change and why – even if you think the person won‘t understand. Holidays can already cause anxiety for some, due to the disruption in daily routines. But the loss of usual traditions, like visiting family, or seeing Santa at the mall, may require a more thorough explanation for the person with those expectations.

Simplify your holiday activities. It does not have to be all or nothing. Decorate, but don't worry about putting everything out or meeting anyone else's standards. Send holiday cards a little at a time or send e-greetings. Encourage the person you support to help with decorating. It may be best to add a bit at a time and gradually layer in more if they want to. Making holiday cards can be more fun than shopping for the perfect commercial card and we still need to minimize shopping trips.

Start new traditions. Do not focus on what you or your loved one is not able to do this year. Enjoy what they can still participate in. Maybe you watch holiday videos or look at pictures from holidays past. Maybe you decorate and they just supervise where things go. Maybe you buy cookies instead of baking, or you bake and then invite a friend or family member over to share.

Adjust meals. Simplify the menu. Prepare what you have time for or purchase all or part of the food premade. Ask other family members to bring some of the items if they are coming over. Allow for current tastes and texture requirements. Old favorites are better than fussy new dishes. Eat earlier (lunch rather than dinner) to avoid issues with fatigue or people who are too hungry and cranky. Sometimes their (and our) ability to cope wanes as the day goes on. It is okay if you choose not to have a traditional holiday feast. What ever works for your family is what you do.

Gift giving. Give other family members lists of things the person can really use or currently enjoys. Many family members may want to give a gift, but just don’t know what. Shop online if going out to the stores is too taxing for you or the person you are caring for, or if it still isn’t safe. Buy small gifts for them to give to others. Use gift bags instead of wrapping, it's easier on you and easier for them to unwrap. When receiving gifts, if it becomes overwhelming for the person, put some gifts aside and open them over several hours or days.

Remember self care. Allow time for rest and relaxation. You are a better caregiver if you are not over-stressed. Enjoy holiday treats, but remember to eat healthy meals and not overdo it. Be careful of over stimulation for you and for the person you are caring for. Slow down and breathe. You and the person you are caring for need rest, so you are better able to cope with the occasional, unavoidable holiday chaos. It is okay if you or your child (young or adult) wants to take a time out if things are becoming frustrating or tiring.

Ask for help when you need it. It’s okay to say “no” to others’ requests or to ask other family members or friends to help out. When others offer help, don’t be a martyr - smile and take them up on whatever they are offering. Have a list of what others can help with (shopping, cleaning, visiting, or sitting with the person while you go out). Help others when you can (virtual volunteering can be fun) but only commit to what you truly want to do and enjoy the season.

Sometimes the Holidays can add extra joy, but sometimes they can add extra stress, especially if you strive to make everything “perfect.”

Relax, reset your expectations, and try to enjoy the little moments. Remember, you and the person you care for will both be happier if you learn to go with the flow, expect the unplanned and enjoy what you can. Let the rest of it go.

Happy Holidays! 


Patti Wade is the Director of the Orange Grove Center on Aging, Dementia and Longevity. She has devoted her professional pursuits in supporting people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She has a particular interest in Alzheimer's disease and creative methods to teach caregivers how to support those individuals in “their world.” 

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