Tips for coping with caring over Christmas

Although to a lot of people, Christmas is the best and most exciting time of the year, it can also be stressful, isolating and difficult for family carers and the person they care for. We have put together lots of useful information for you to help support you through this time. There are some short tips as well as information specific to caring for someone with mental health difficulties, eating disorders and substance misuse.

We hope you find it useful.

Short tips for coping over Christmas

These tips are intended as general guidance and may not be suitable to all family carers

  1. Make sure you have ordered any medication in advance as your pharmacy may close over the festive period. To check your local pharmacy opening times, you can use this link.
  2. Ensure that you have a list of emergency numbers to hand – maybe in a diary, note book or pinned to the fridge.
  3. If family members ask what you would like for Christmas, you could always encourage them to make you a voucher of their time- such as doing a load of ironing, an afternoon to sit with the person you care for.
  4. If you are feeling you need to offload with those who understand what you are going through, join our Online Community.
  5. As the bad weather descends upon us- check have you registered with Uk PowerNetworks in case of a power cut. You can find out more using this link.
  6. If the person you care for is in full time care, find out what the arrangements are. Many places open up their doors over the festive period, meaning you can still spend lots of quality time together.
  7. If it is pizza for Christmas lunch, that is OK. Don’t strive for the perfect Christmas off ads, aim for whatever makes it perfect for you & your family.
  8. Think about what you/they are looking forward to and what might be a concern. Share this with everyone to take the pressure off.
  9. Create a quiet space for the person you care for if the festivities get too much. Some time out can help reduce anxiety levels.
  10. Keep in regular contact with others over the Christmas period. Call a supportive mate or family member at least once a day.
  11. It is important to take a breather – why not take a nice walk or even take yourself to the bathroom for a few minutes

The festive period can bring difficulties due to the impact of someone else’s drinking or substance misuse. We hold a range of support programmes designed specifically for you if you care for someone who struggles with excessive drinking or substance misuse. You can access more information on these programmes as well as information on how to sign up by taking a look at our events calendar.

Caring for someone with excessive alcohol/drug use over the festive period

There are a lot of generic resources available which all contain great hints and tips if you are caring for someone who struggles with excessive drinking or substance misuse

Caring for someone with Dementia over the festive period

  • Have realistic expectations of what you have the time and energy to do, and what the person with dementia has the ability to do.
  • Communicate with family and friends about how things may be different this year.
  • Ask for help, remember your tiredness and agitation is contagious.
  • Plan somewhere quiet where the person with dementia can have some “time out” from the family celebration.
  • Give family and friends activities they can do with the person with dementia.
  • Get family and friends to give you respite so that you can enjoy the Christmas season too.
  • Ask family and friends to spend a little one-on-one time with the person with dementia.
  • Let others know that the person with dementia may value gifts of company rather than material goods.
  • Read how others may experience/cope with Dementia at Christmas – this can help you feel less isolated. Read Tom and Nola’s story.

Caring for someone with Autism over the festive period

  • Autistic people can find any kind of change difficult. Plan and talk about Christmas in advance. Think about what you/they are looking forward to and what might be a concern. Where possible and appropriate, share this with the rest of your family and friends.
  • If it is helpful, use visual aids such as calendars, lists and schedules to help explain and plan your Christmas.
  • Liaise with school, college or support teams so the same approach and strategies are used at home, and so that Christmas preparation is started at the same time.
  • Think about and plan around sensory issues that could cause distress – consider ear defenders etc… for key points of potential sensory overload.
  • It can be helpful to wear earplugs when attending family or work Christmas and/or social events. Scoping out the nearest toilets can also be a great way to reduce anxiety as you can ensure a quiet and safe escape if the person you care for is experiencing sensory overload.
  • Don’t just plan for Christmas day, plan for the whole festive break.
  • Some autistic people may not want to get involved in social gatherings at Christmas and/or they might want to be on their own. It is important that your expectations of Christmas take account of their needs. Think about the best way for you all to communicate over the Christmas period if you are not meeting in person – maybe a phone call, text or a Christmas card.
  • Many autistic people have a strong need for routine. If so, you might want to try keeping the daily schedule the same as far as possible, including on Christmas Day.
  • If too many presents may be overwhelming, discuss and set a limit together. For example, one from mum and dad, one from grandparents and other family members could perhaps give money.
  • Introduce presents one by one instead of all at once, or stagger them throughout the festive period.
  • Some autistic people don’t like the surprise of presents they aren’t expecting, think about planning in advance and making a list of presents they want.

There are lots more hints and tips for caring for someone with Autism over the festive period – you can find more information and talk to others who may understand a bit better as they have been through or are going through similar by visiting the National Autistic Society online forum.