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Tips for Caregivers
Helping Your Loved One Cope during the Holidays


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It’s the most wonderful time of the year. But the demands of the holiday season can overwhelm even the healthiest and most energetic among us. For individuals battling chronic pain, holiday stress and anxiety can be magnified, making symptoms even worse.

While it may be impossible to avoid holiday stress altogether, here are a few tips to help you and your loved one meet the demands of holiday shopping, parties, and family gatherings:

  • Decide together which traditions and rituals are most important.
  • Help your loved one identify and explain his or her needs and manage expectations.
  • Plan ahead so you know and can anticipate how this holiday season will play out.
  • Help your loved one communicate to family members how chronic pain may limit his or her activities.
  • Remind your loved one that it’s okay to say no without feeling guilty.
  • If you’re visiting relatives, find a quiet space in their house or consider spending part of the time at a hotel so your loved one can take a break from the festivities.
  • If you’re hosting, considering ordering pre-made decorations and meals, and begin preparing several weeks in advance.
  • Use an artificial tree and throw a tree-trimming party to ease the burden of decorating.
  • Help your loved one get his or her shopping done ahead of time. Take your loved one to the mall during off-peak hours when the stores are less crowded for better parking and shorter lines. Consider catalog and online shopping, or suggest giving gift certificates.
  • Help your loved one address holiday cards, or consider sending e-cards.
  • Recharge. Give your loved one and yourself permission to recuperate between activities.
  • Make sure your loved one has enough medication to get him or her through the holidays.
  • Help your loved one resist the temptation to overindulge in food and alcohol, which can worsen chronic pain.
  • Plan activities or travel during the time of day when your loved one generally feels best.
  • Travel at off-peak times, pack light, and send gifts in advance.
  • Increase physical activity and practice meditation and relaxation techniques with your loved one.

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Reprinted with permission of the American Pain Foundation,

This article was published in Coping® with Cancer magazine, November/December 2009.