November is National Family Caregivers Month, a time to recognize and honor family caregivers and educate communities on how they can support them. Many caregivers work and also provide care, causing a signiﬁcant emotional, physical, and ﬁnancial toll, with the notoriously stressful holidays increasing those issues. But studies show that coordinated support, especially by other family members and friends, can reduce caregiver depression, anxiety, and stress.
The Friendship Circle of Miami is a nonproﬁt dedicated to offering friendship and acceptance to individuals with special needs, and providing respite to their families.
Krizia Warren, Project Lifeline* Manager at Friendship Circle. (https://www.friendshipcirclemiami.org/), offers these tips on things family caregivers can do to help ease holiday stress:
• Find calm where you can. Everyone needs some downtime to renew. Schedule quiet times during the day — short periods when you can give your family member your full attention and tune in to their needs. You can even have a code word for when your family member feels overwhelmed. Giving your family member some control during activities can help reduce anxiety.
• Set a schedule. Family members with special needs thrive on routine. Provide a schedule of events for holiday activities, particularly on days with lots of transitions. It could be a written schedule or one with pictures — even a calendar showing what is planned for upcoming days. Discuss the schedule regularly and provide information for each event.
• Watch for sensory overload. The holidays are full of stimulation. It can be overwhelming for individuals who are highly sensitive. Prepare ahead if you know you are going into an especially stimulating environment. Bring earplugs to loud events. Possibly limit holiday decorations in your home. Make your environment as calm, and if necessary as routine, as possible.
• Prepare your family and friends. Talk to family members and friends ahead of holiday events. Discuss your family member’s speciﬁc needs and what helps them feel comfortable and safe. When visiting friends or relatives, bring along some of your family member’s favorite items for comfort, if needed.
• Keep it simple. Don’t sweat it if you don’t have time to send out cards this year or decorate the front porch. Don’t worry about ﬁnding the perfect gift for every member of your family. Skip the stores and perhaps opt for gift certiﬁcates. Simplify whenever possible.
• Ask for help. Don’t try to do everything yourself. Delegate whenever possible. Give the kids a job. Ask your family for help. Create a list of things they can do to support you during the holidays — from shopping and cooking to spending time with your child while you prep for the gathering of your friends and family.