Christmas can be a difficult time for many people for many reasons. For unpaid carers, the challenges of looking after someone, combined with the extra pressures of Christmas, can mean they just won’t get a break. We hear the message that Christmas is a time for family, festivities, and fun, but the reality of coping this time of year can be very different.
Here are some top tips from other carers and caring charities to help navigate this time of year:
- Try and plan as much as you can in advance, particularly if the person you look after likes or needs routine.
Think about what you both need and how you might be able to get it. Talk to family and friends, manage expectations, including your own! It’s ok to prioritise what’s best for you, even if others don’t seem to understand.
It can be reassuring to have an emergency plan in place, in case of an unforeseen event, such as if you were taken ill. Local charity partner Caring Together offer help with their ‘What If?’ planning tool. https://www.caringtogether.org/support-for-carers/adult-carers/emergency-planning
Think too about pharmacies and GP surgery opening times and where possible make sure you’ve got all the medication now that you need to see you through to the New Year.
- Self-care at Christmas
As a carer it’s important you try and get a rest over Christmas too. If you’ve got friends and family who could help, even for a couple of hours, don’t be afraid to ask them. Many people don’t realise the impact caring can have but may be able to offer support if you explain. Talk with your family and friends about how you’re going to approach Christmas as well as discussing any worries or concerns you have. Everyone being on the same page can help alleviate stress, reduce conflict, and make the festive period run smoother.
If it’s not possible for you to get a break, you may be able to get comfort and support by talking to other carers in the same situation. One way to do this over Christmas is through online groups and forums. You can also use telephone helplines but check their Christmas opening times.
The charity Mind have some really helpful tips for coping at Christmas, covering a range of topics from coping with money worries to managing relationships. Understanding why you feel the way you do can be really helpful in starting to address it.
- Stay warm and well
It is important for both of you to stay healthy and warm. This fun and animated video take of the 12 days of Christmas from the NHS is a few years old now but many of the key messages still apply: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AWt3DGzVDME
And there’s lots of local advice and resources here https://www.bewellcambridgeshire.co.uk/
- Know where to go for help if you need it
Some services are limited over Christmas or closed, so you and the person you look after may find it harder to access support if you need it. Try and find out in advance which local services will be available. You can contact Caring Together helpline on 0345 241 0954, or your local Community Navigator for help with this:
Cambridge city: 01223 300460
East Cambs: 01353 659639
Fenland: 01354 695208
Huntingdonshire: 01480 775493
South Cambs: 01954 212100
If you care for someone with dementia, Christmas can be a confusing and upsetting time. The Alzheimer’s Society have lots of good practical advice to help and their online community Talking Point is free and available over the holidays to connect with others in similar situations www.alzheimers.org.uk/blog/how-support-dementia-christmas
If you are concerned about the pressure of Christmas on your mental health, you can call the Mind Infoline on 0300 123 3393 for further information and signposting to local mental health support.
If you need to talk to someone right now, the following services are free, anonymous, and are always open:
- Call Samaritans on 116 123 (freephone)
- Text SHOUT to 85258. This is a free 24/7 crisis text service run by Shout
Wishing you a safe and happy Christmas ?