How to Help a Caregiver at Christmas

CaregiveratChristmas

A Caregiver at Christmas Feels Double the Stress

Contrary to the song, Christmas is NOT “the most wonderful time of the year” for caregivers. It’s that time of year when all the ‘what ifs’ pile up in their brains as they silently mourn Christmases past and what to do in the present and the presents (and the traditions and coping with friends, family, Christmas cards and hanging stockings and everything else).

Pedro and the girls in front of the tree that transplant Christmas.

Pedro and the girls in front of the tree that transplant Christmas.

When my husband had cancer, the nicest thing someone did for me during the holidays was when my parents helped our young daughters by making sure an important family tradition stayed alive. They bought a U.S. Forest Service tree-cutting permit and took our girls on the annual tree hunt while Pedro and I were a thousand miles away worrying about the daily stem-cell collection count. They set the tree up and helped the girls decorate it so that when we got home three days before Christmas, it actually looked and smelled like Christmas.

How Can You Help a Caregiver at Christmas?

Tips for helping out a caregiver who cares for a housebound or neutropenic loved one:

  • Buy them a Christmas tree. Chances are, they don’t have the time or energy or money go tree hunting. Make sure you help them set it up, too.
  • If the caregiver has children, organize a group to buy and stuff stockings for the kids and deliver them to the caregiver far enough in advance that the caregiver doesn’t have to worry about doing it themselves.
  • Stuff a stocking with things a caregiver could use. Caregivers can always use hand lotion, germ killer, travel sizes of Kleenex, shampoo and conditioner—whatever you think might make the caregiver YOU care about feel loved.
  • Bake something healthy for them. Find out if the caregiver or the one they’re caring for has any health restrictions, and then bake some cookies (use whole-wheat flour instead of white, brown or raw sugar instead of white) or other treats (here’s a helpful link about patients with neutropenia and what they can eat: http://www.upmc.com/patients-visitors/education/cancer/Pages/neutropenic-diet.aspx).
  • Offer to put up Christmas lights outside the house. If you aren’t comfortable climbing ladders, decorate shrubbery or tree trunks—anything to let the caregiver know YOU care about their happiness.
  • Gift cards. Give gift cards that the caregiver can use or pass on to someone else as a Christmas gift. This will help ease the caregiver’s financial stress.
  • Offer to prepare a holiday meal for a caregiver and his or her family. Ask in advance, and check for dietary restrictions.

If the caregiver you care about celebrates Chanukah or Kwanza instead of Christmas, take the time to find out how you can help them through their holiday—what matters to caregivers is that somebody cares! (tweet this)

Andrew during his surprise Santa visit.

Andrew during his surprise Santa visit.

How have you helped a caregiver or, if you’re a caregiver, what help did you appreciate the most during the holidays?

Anita currently teaches English to 7th-12th graders. She describes herself as a ‘recovering cancer caregiver’ who gives thanks daily that her husband has been cancer-free for ten years.

Please note: We reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Awesome blog! And GREAT advice. Keep it up, because this is something that can reach across to thousands!

  • Anita Ojeda

    Thanks, Heather!

  • Carol Bovee

    When my son Andrew was undergoing an intense round of chemotherapy, and was severely immunosuppressed, he was sad to not be able to go to the Christmas party planned for neighborhood children.

    Imagine his delight, when the party was over, when “Santa” knocked on our door. Santa assured us he was not sick and had not brought germs, but instead had brought a present for a special young man.

    Oh, that did a mother’s heart so much good!

  • Anita Ojeda

    What a beautiful story, Carol! I’ve added the photo you sent me of Santa visiting Andrew to the blog post. What an angelically happy smile!

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  • Shawn

    Thank you for shedding light on the caregiver’s needs which often go unnoticed.

    • Thank you for stopping by, Shawn! Caregivers are unsung heroes who usually don’t want to draw attention to themselves and so they suffer in silence. But if we help a caregiver, we’re also helping the one they care for!

  • I love reading your blog because you always encourage me to bless others in a way I hadn’t thought of before. Thanks so much, Anita!
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  • Great advice! I am thankful that Mom has such good caregivers at the nursing home. I am heading to see her tomorrow as it is the day of their Christmas party there. This will only be the second time I have been able to be there for the party. Looking forward to it!
    Tara recently posted…Testimony TuesdayMy Profile

    • I’m so glad you get to go to her Christmas party and enjoy time with her! Have a wonderful time :).

  • Hi Anita, this is a wonderful reminder to bless others, and you described care-giving at Christmas perfectly in that first paragraph. 🙂 Merry “almost” Christmas!
    Tobi@SimplyJesus recently posted…Dear Magic of Christmas Past. {Christmas with Friends}My Profile

  • Only those who have walked this walk can give such advice. Thank you, Anita.
    Susan Shipe recently posted…the 18th day of christmasMy Profile

  • Such a great, practical post. We can get so wrapped up in our own to-do list that we forget about how hard it is for care givers to find the time to get away and get there list accomplished.
    Colleen Mitchell recently posted…An Advent EpiphanyMy Profile

    • I find myself forgetting caregivers, too! And I know what it’s like to be one during the holidays :/.

  • Thank you SO much for this post!!! Although I didn’t have a caregiver in my life this Christmas, I have in the past, and I wish I would have understood some of the points you outlined. There are so many things to think about when considering the needs/wants/longings of others at times such as these. I’m pinning this for the future; I hope you can see the silver lining of sharing your experiences as you bolster others!
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    • You’re welcome :). The little gestures always meant so much to me during my caregiving journey–the no-strings-attached-I-just-want-to-help ones that showed that someone cared about what I was going through :). And that’s my hope–to bring awareness to those who love a caregiver and to let caregivers know that they’re not alone in their feelings of isolation.

  • I pray the Lord would show me someone I can do this for. xo
    Susan Shipe recently posted…what i learned in novemberMy Profile

  • Hi Anita,
    What a beautiful example you’ve shown us through your own experience to spotlight the caregivers during this season. I love the practical tips and have to admit that I’ve not thought about it so deeply before. Thank you for highlighting this post again and bringing it to the forefront!

  • Susan

    So very helpful. Still.