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Palliative Care Offers Tips For Dealing With Stress Over the Holidays

This holiday season is a bright one for many, as we navigate the malls, spend time with family and revel in the joy of lights, love, and laughter. But for many, the holiday isn’t so bright and cheery. Especially for those in palliative care, it can be a time of sadness as patients and families recall happier memories. Indeed, the holidays can be stressful for anyone — but it’s compounded in those dealing with grief.

Palliative care is all about managing troubling symptoms to make patients with serious illness more comfortable, with the goal of symptom relief that makes the patient’s quality of life as good as it can be. Designed for those with advanced illnesses like cancer, chronic lung disease, heart failure or a neurological disease, palliative care offers comfort while a patient is battling a life-threatening illness through curative treatments like chemotherapy or radiation.

Helpful Tips

This can be a tough time for patients and their families — especially when surrounded by holiday specials and brightly decorated homes that, while bringing joy to many, can bring sadness and frustration for others. Here are some tips for dealing with stress over the holidays.

  • Acknowledge that these holidays will be different from those in the past and that they will bring with them emotionally difficult experiences, says palliative care.
  • Take the time to remember what has been lost. Spend time with that friend or loved one who may be grieving right now. Bring up happy memories and look through photo albums to recall the happy times.
  • Listen to your loved ones as they cope with the grief, whether this is the patient or a family member who has recently lost a spouse, parent, etc.
  • Be honest in dealing with what to expect from the holidays. Be sensitive to the requests of loved ones as to what they do and do not want to do. Communication is key here. If you are the patient, be upfront with well-meaning caregivers. Tell them when you need alone time and ask them to respect that, and listen to what others want, as they are also feeling grief — just in a different way, according to Reporter Today.
  • Decide on the traditions you will keep and which ones you will put aside. You can even make new traditions this year. Or, if you have experienced the loss of a loved one already, create a tradition in memory of your loved one that will keep them in your heart every year. Sometimes, we blindly follow traditions that stress us out. This year, don’t get caught up in what you’ve always done just for appearance sake. Instead, engage only in those that bring you and your loved one happiness, suggests Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
  • Stay organized. You’re dealing with a lot here, especially if you’re the main caregiver. Make lists, check them twice, and keep things straight on your calendar. Being more organized reduces stress more than you know.
  • Get help. Caring for a loved one in palliative care can drain you even more so now that the holidays are upon us. Don’t be afraid to ask for respite care and rely more on other family members and members of the palliative care team to pick up the slack. Get counseling to stay healthy if you have to. Above all, say YES to those who offer to help. Don’t keep the burden all for yourself.
  • Take care of yourself. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and managing your stress means taking time for YOU. Meditate or engage in yoga for 15 minutes a day. Take long walks. Get a massage. Spend time on a soothing hobby. Whatever it is, take a time-out once in a while to clear your head.
  • Do something that makes you feel good. If you are able, volunteer at a soup kitchen or deliver gifts to needy children. Do what you can to lift your spirits and those of people around you who may be even worse off than you.
  • Slow down. Dealing with a life-threatening illness can’t be done on a full-speed-ahead schedule. Now more than ever, you have to slow down, clear your schedule of things that sap your energy, and concentrate only on the events or tasks that truly bring you happiness. Ditch the guilt and concentrate on you this holiday season.

The American Psychological Association (APA) says that almost half of all women (44 percent) and a third of men (31 percent) report an increase in stress around the holidays. Add a life-threatening illness to that equation and getting through the holidays can seem insurmountable. Prioritize what’s important, and don’t tack on any additional tasks, says Reader’s Digest.

Contact Pathways Home Health and Hospice

Are you a caregiver dealing with holiday stress on top of caring for your ill loved one? Are you the one who is ill, struggling to get through this time as best you can? Please contact us at 888-755-7855 for help.