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The Importance of Prioritizing

The Importance of Prioritizing

Happy Holidays! During this time of year, you hear that phrase everywhere you go. It’s well-intentioned and absolutely reflects our wishes for ourselves and others. But, as someone with caregiving responsibilities, that phrase can seem loaded and aspirational. Is it possible to have “happy holidays (regardless of your holiday of choice)?  We absolutely think so! With clear boundaries and priorities, we think it is possible to enjoy the holidays and avoid (or limit) stress and burnout.  

Let’s face it, the responsibilities of a caregiver don’t change with the seasons. Providing in-home care involves ongoing, round-the-clock assistance with physical and emotional needs. In fact, according to the National Association of Mental Illness (NAMI), 64% of people with mental illness report holidays make their conditions worse. NAMI goes on to further state that “high expectations, loneliness, and stress can lead to the “Holiday Blues” during the season from Thanksgiving to New Year’s”. So, if you are caring for someone suffering from the Holiday Blues, the need for emotional support is likely to increase during the holiday season.  

So, let’s take a minute and talk about managing your caregiving responsibilities and the holiday by prioritizing and deprioritizing. To enjoy the holiday season, the bottom line is that you will need to set some parameters, a.k.a., boundaries.  What are the most pressing matters now? What absolutely must be done? And what can be put on the backburner for the time being?

We know that all medically based care for your loved one is a top priority.  Responsibilities such as medication management, wound care, assisting with physical activity, mobility assistance, bathing, feeding, and dressing are all non-negotiables.  Then there are practical needs such as managing your loved one’s finances, transportation, shopping, food preparation, and maybe even light housekeeping.  But while these are all top priorities, they don’t all have to be independent tasks.   Sometimes you may be able to creatively multi-task. For example, if your loved one needs physical activity and you need to do some holiday shopping, you could consider taking them to a small boutique or gift shop to walk around (some place that is not so big where they might feel overwhelmed) while you shop for gifts at the same time.  

Do you accompany your loved one to doctor’s appointments?  We know that it is very important to be attentive during the actual visit with the physician; however, if there happens to be a longer than normal wait time in the waiting room, you could possibly catch up on paying bills, read important medical documents, do some holiday shopping online, or even search the internet for new holiday recipes.

Now, let’s talk shopping, particularly online shopping.  

We’re all different which means some of us love shopping, and others absolutely hate it! But regardless of your disposition, we all must shop for something!  Make your life a little bit easier by shopping online.  You have a lot of responsibilities to juggle as a caregiver, so we want to continually remind you to take advantage of every available opportunity to get help. It’s okay to ask for help, even if that means eliciting help through a mechanical device!  While COVID-19 brought about much devastation, it also brought lots of people closer to technology.  Many people reportedly began taking advantage of the convenience of “doing it all” right at their fingertips, all within the click of a button.  We certainly hope that you have become more acquainted with using technology, because our next few suggestions will require it.

Grocery shopping is a necessity. But you don’t have to do it all yourself. There are several third-party vendors who will not only shop for you, but also deliver. Don’t trust a third-party vendor or fees too high? No worries. Most stores now offer curbside pick-up options where the staff will shop for the items on your list and all you have to do is drive up and someone will place it in your car. Easy. Quick. Timesaving.

Holiday gift shopping? Two ideas: gift cards and board games. For most people, holiday shopping is an art, and they take pride in picking the perfect gift. With all the demands on your time, you must prioritize ease and convenience. Gift cards can be purchased at almost any store (including gas stations) and are also available electronically. Pick up a few while you’re waiting to checkout at the grocery store. Now, board games. Rather than shopping for everyone in a family, or even for kids, consider purchasing board games instead. Not only are they great for developing cognitive skills and creativity, but they also encourage togetherness, and create great connections and memories.  

Gift wrapping? We recommend de-prioritizing! If you want the “element of surprise”, gift bags area great alternative. Otherwise, you can save time, effort, and a few trees by doing away with wrapping entirely. (Do you know anyone who has ever turned down a nice gift just because it wasn’t wrapped)?  If you like, rather than explaining how you were too busy to wrap gifts, just tell your loved ones you are starting a new tradition!  With that said, no one will ever expect you to wrap up another gift!

When it comes to holiday meals, prioritize what’s important: time spent sharing a meal with loved ones. With few exceptions, store bought meals offer the perfect mix of great taste, variety, ease, and convenience. But you don’t have to take our word for it. This Thanksgiving the Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten, reminded us all that “…store -bought is fine”.

Speaking of meals, skip washing a sink full of dirty dishes and switch to paper or plastic dishware.  They come in a variety of styles and prices. You are sure to find something that fits your budget and taste.

In summary, we all have personal reasons for celebrating the holiday season. However, those celebrations can often overwhelm and trigger feelings of burnout. When coupled with the stress of caregiving responsibilities, the results can be catastrophic. You have the power to prevent these things from happening by setting clear boundaries and prioritizing. Make a list of the things which are most important to you and commit to prioritizing only those things. Everything else can either be postponed, delegated to others, or completed in a way that requires less of your time and energy. With that mindset, you can make your holiday as big (or little) as you want it to be.  Happy Holidays!


Posted On 22 Dec, 2022


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