A Considerate Christmas
The festive period is manic for everyone: lots of presents, plans and people to consider. Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, you have the crazy world around you to contend with. For carers, looking after their loved ones throughout this time of year can oftentimes mean joy, merriment and festive cheer are replaced with anxiety, stress and exhaustion. If you know a family member, friend or colleague is caring for a loved one – maybe the best present you can give them this Christmas is consideration.
- Time – many carers struggle to find enough hours in a normal day. Balancing family life, work and household chores can be challenging enough, add in sometimes 35+ hours a week caring for a loved one is like having another fulltime job and your home is also your workplace.
- Practicalities – caring for someone who is ill, mentally or physically disabled, frail or with additional needs can require specialist equipment, lots of medication, mobility issues, sensory issues, challenging behaviour and even an increased risk of contracting infections.
- Finances – carers may not be able to just ‘pop to the shops’ or browse for bargains. The needs of their loved one could mean spending more money on energy bills, equipment, specialist food, travel or replacement care. They also may not be able to work due to their caring responsibilities.
- Health and Wellbeing – all the above can make it almost impossible for carers to look after themselves. When did they last get chance to go and meet a friend for a coffee and chat? When did they last enjoy a bubble bath or read a good book? When did they last go to the doctor for a check-up? Being able to do these seemingly simple tasks are probably on most carers’ wish lists.
- Emotions – how many times have you asked the carer you know ‘How are you?’ and they said ‘fine’? Did you accept that answer and move on? Did you take the time to consider whether they are actually fine or are they just giving you the simplest answer? Sometimes, all it would take is an extra question ‘Are you really fine?’ or ‘What can I do to help you now?’ to show the carer that you are genuinely concerned and want to help.
With all these considerations in mind, now think about Christmas:
- When you invite a carer and the person they care for round for Christmas dinner, that is a lovely gesture and I’m sure they would love to be able to say yes without hesitation. But it might not be practical if they need lots of equipment or medication. It might be that bringing dinner to their house would be much less stressful and enable them to enjoy the dinner without a huge amount of extra stress.
- Offering to bring the party to their house, may solve some issues – like equipment/travel/etc – but maybe having a whole family get together fills them with anxiety or could trigger challenging behaviour. It might be easier to have small groups of people visit and spread out the visits over a week.
- Giving presents is always enjoyable and we may feel that a gift voucher for a lovely spa day is the perfect present for a carer. But have you considered when and how the carer will be able to use the voucher? Are you going to go round and look after their loved one so they can enjoy the day of relaxation? The organisation that would be involved in using their gift voucher could create more stress than it relieves. It doesn’t mean you can’t buy carers presents, or spa vouchers – it just means that you need to look at the reality of the gift for that carer.
- Receiving presents – if a carer has time to write you a Christmas card and then remember to give it to you or post it, you are lucky. Many carers would love to spend hours choosing the perfect presents and then wrapping them beautifully – but, will they have the time or energy? If you do receive a card or present from a carer, you should remember what an incredible gift it truly is, no matter how small. Despite everything they have going on, they thought of you.
Remembering the spirit of Christmas – that everyone deserves to feel joy and love. A little extra consideration for the carers in our lives could help make their caring Christmas – a Merry Christmas!
By Laura Pryde-Jarman
If you like to read more from a carer’s perspective, or share your own Carer’s Story, please visit our Carer’s Stories page