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Tips for Carers on how to Cope over Christmas

Christmas is a time of year which can evoke an array of feelings; for many it is a time of great joy but for others it can heighten feelings of stress, loneliness and grief which no doubt will be amplified this year. If you have lost someone recently, you may find reading Cruse Bereavement Care’s advice about coping with grief at Christmas helpful as well as attending two online “Understanding your Bereavement” sessions at 2pm on 14 January and 11 February.

Christmas can be a challenging time if you are a Carer especially as you may not get a well-earned break like the rest of the working population. Forward Carers has produced some tips on how to cope over the Christmas period.

  • Try to be realistic, Christmas doesn’t have to be perfect, take this pressure off yourself and don’t place such high expectations on the day itself or on you.
  • Try and plan as much as you can. Last minute things to do add even more stress. If you like to cook everything from scratch, try and do this before in stages and freeze as you go. If you shop online for food, try and get a delivery slot secured well ahead of Christmas.  If the person you provide care for thrives on routine, try and build the Christmas period around usual activities such as mealtimes etc. You may also find it helpful to stagger any visitors and explain your plans to them to manage your stress as well as the person you care for.
  • Check Christmas opening times of your GP’s surgery and pharmacy or any other services that you rely on. Remember, you can always call NHS 111 for advice. If you are registered with Birmingham Carers Hub’s Carers Emergency Response Service known as ‘CERS’, (operated by our partner Midland Mencap) make sure you have the number to hand should an emergency arise and you need back-up care.
  • Delegate, don’t try and do everything yourself, share out some of the tasks or some of your caring duties. You might find it helpful to have these sorts of conversations in advance rather than on Christmas day itself.
  • Try and rest or have time for you. If you have been able to delegate some of your caring responsibilities, map out some ‘me’ time. This could be having a relaxing bath, spending time reading, chatting with friends or going for a walk. Alternatively, you could try and arrange for some formal respite care.
  • Treat yourself. Plan a DIY pampering session, watch a favourite box set, grab a take-away or buy a ‘dine in for two’ meal. Do whatever feels like an indulgent treat for you.
  • Don’t over stretch your finances. If money is tight, agree a price limit with family and friends, buy one Secret Santa present or give a homemade present such as mince pies or a Christmas wreath made from greenery in your garden.
  • Stay warm and well – it’s important for you and the person you care for to stay healthy and warm all through the winter but especially at Christmas when services are limited. Here is some advice from the NHS on staying well this winter.
  • Try and have some fun. Christmas is a time when it is okay to wear funny hats and jumpers, play board games and tell silly Christmas cracker jokes. They say that laughter is the best medicine and it’s a great way to lift the spirits. If being daft isn’t your thing, watch, read or listen to something that makes you laugh out loud.

Here are some Christmas tips from Carers

When C was little, shopping at Christmas time was hell as everyone is less patient. I had a badge made for him that said Please be patient I have autism. It did help.

We found that eating early and not having a three-course meal so that it did not take too long was helpful. It was also good to keep up traditions like sharing the cracker jokes.

Christmas presents – a dishwasher and a tumble dryer are always top of my recommended list, I call them my “mechanical slaves”.

How do Carers feel about Christmas this year?

It really is going to be a very different Christmas. I’m just going to make sure we have some good food, I’ve ordered a bigger freezer, coming Monday, so I can prepare as much as possible in advance.

I will spending Christmas 24/7 with S who has autism, struggles with change because of his autism and who will be very anxious as we are not doing what we usually do. When he is anxious he is VERY loud and doesn’t sleep well, so I may well be managing his anxiety on very little sleep.

I have had some really challenging Christmas “holidays” so I’m trying to make the most of this one with the family I have left.

Christmas has always been a wonderful time for us and the thoughts of this year probably our last and put all the COVID restrictions on top is weighing really heavy. Our traditional Christmas is out the window….I looked through the photos I had taken over the last couple of years despite the dementia I realised what a lovely life we have and at time still do thanks to our lovely family. So instead of choosing to wallow in the what if and the maybes I owe it to him and our family to enjoy the moments we have left and celebrate that we still have each other. I wish everyone a joyful peaceful Christmas xx