December 1st, 2016

// Family Caregiver stress peaks during the holiday season

Family Caregiver stress peaks during the holiday season

With the holiday season upon us, many Canadians are scrambling to fit a host of extra errands and activities into their already jam-packed lives. For most of us, stress levels can rise during the holidays, but new data from Elizz shows this time of year can be especially challenging for the millions of Canadians who act as family caregivers.

Elizz, Canada’s go-to place for all things caregiving, has spent the last year connecting with and helping family caregivers and those who depend on them. Launched in October 2015 by Saint Elizabeth, a national health care provider, Elizz has received close to 600,000 visitors to its caregiver website, Elizz.com. Among its many online resources is a simple self-assessment presented to caregivers when they enter the site: ‘How are you feeling today?

This tool takes a daily temperature of Canadian caregivers and the results during key holidays are telling.

  • 37% of caregivers were ‘feeling stressed’ or ‘in crisis’ in December 2015, a 10% bump over the monthly average reported.
  • Easter and Thanksgiving also showed peak stress with 34% and 37% reporting stress or crisis in the respective periods.
  • A recent poll on Elizz.com revealed that 45% of family caregivers find juggling extra holiday errands with work and caregiving duties is a key factor in their rising stress.
  • The same poll found that 15% of caregivers stress about how to include aging parents with health issues in holiday celebrations.

“‘How are you feeling today’ is a cornerstone of the Elizz brand,” said Allyson Kinsley, Senior Vice President of Brand Experience and Strategy for Elizz and Saint Elizabeth. “So often people only ask about the health of an aging parent or relative, forgetting that family caregivers can also be under tremendous pressure and dealing with high levels of stress and anxiety.”

What do caregivers ask for most?  In a word – help.  Help managing the health needs of their family members, with 25% of caregivers asking for professional in-home assistance.

Having mom or dad visit during the holidays can mean helping them get washed, dressed and fed or tending to other personal needs and medical care. This can be time-consuming on the best of days, making quality time during busy family gatherings especially difficult. When an aging parent or relative has complex health needs, or is in hospital or long-term care, bringing them home for any length of visit may seem virtually unmanageable.

The phone lines at Elizz are already lighting up with requests from families looking for home health care assistance over the holidays, whether it’s help with personal care, medications or specialty nursing services such as dementia and palliative care. Virtual services such as the Caregiver Coach are also available to help guide families through the health care system based on their own unique situation.

Five holiday tips for caregivers of seniors

1. Try to spend as much time as possible with the elderly person you’re caring for before, during, and after the holidays. The holiday season can be a lonely time for seniors, especially if they are living in a long-term care facility, and can bring back memories of family and friends who are no longer here.
2. Involve your elderly parent in your plans for holiday festivities. For example, asking someone their opinion on the menu for Christmas dinner may seem trivial to you, but it could mean the world to a senior who may be feeling a bit neglected.
3. Try creating a new holiday memory or tradition with them. Try to find senior-friendly activities in which they are easily able to participate, such as window shopping at the mall during an off-peak time, or visiting their old friends.
4. If possible, suggest having a small holiday gathering of your parents’ friends at your home or facility where they live. Make this a family activity by enlisting the help of other family members, especially any older children or teenagers, to help in the preparations, serving, and clean-up.
5. Encourage the elders in your care to stay active with light exercise for at least 30 minutes every day. If 30 minutes is too much, try starting with five minutes of easy stretches or walking around the house, and gradually adding more minutes as they build up their stamina.

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