“One of the first ways [to manage stress] is giving ourselves permission to accept help,” said Heather Greene, director of Resident and Family Services at Mountainside Residential Care Center, a member of the Westchester Medical Center Health Network in Margaretville. “That can be anything from accepting an invitation to dinner to having someone come visit and sit with your loved one.”
When maintaining old traditions becomes stressful, it’s important to conquer the fear of starting new ones, she said. “Maybe it’s celebrating on a date other than the exact holiday or enlisting others to help with dinner by bringing their favorite dish.”
If family members lock horns or cause tension, she suggests pointing out the skills each brings to the table. “If you focus on strengths and ask for specifics instead of throwing up your hands, you can find the support you need,” she said. “You could say, ‘Bob, you’re really good at finances, but they’re not my strong suit. Do you think you could help Mom with her checkbook every month?’ This way, you’re building a team around yourself.”
Finally, Greene stresses the importance of self-care. “If you get sick and exhausted, you can’t care for your loved one," she said. "Try to set aside at least half an hour to make sure you’re hydrated, eating healthily, and, most importantly, planning for the future.
"So much of caregiving is worry, guilt and reacting to the here and now; but try not to be reactionary. Involve your loved ones, look ahead, and find the support you need for the coming year.”