Caregivers Make Spirits Bright for Seniors and Their Families this Holiday Season

By Matt Bolesta

The most wonderful time of the year can often be the most hectic time. Between the parties, gift shopping, kids’ recitals, cooking, and visiting family, there is a lot to juggle during the holidays. And for those taking care of an elderly parent or relative, ‘tis the season for a lot more added pressure. According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, family members who serve as caregivers for a loved one show higher levels of stress, frustration and even depression, all of which are magnified during the holiday season.

The holidays are also when most families make critical life decisions on how best to care for older loved ones. Many relatives visiting from out of town realize that Grandma and Grandpa could use a little more help when it comes to preparing meals, getting dressed or just getting a ride to a doctor’s appointment.

Here in King County, the number of seniors here will have doubled by 2025 since 2009, making up nearly a quarter of our population. And according to AARP, around 90% of seniors want to stay in their home as they age. What many families don’t know is that there are local resources right here in Seattle and throughout King County that can help older adults who want to stay in their homes. Instead of moving into an independent or assisted-living community, in-home caregivers can lend a helping hand to older adults, and those family members who take care of them; both during the holiday season and year round.

This type of short-term care (also known as “respite”) is a helpful option for families who need a quick break from their caregiving duties. It’s something that every family caregiver should know about, but most probably have never of heard of.

Depending on someone’s needs, respite caregivers can come in for just a few hours a day to give family members who take care of their parents full-time a much-needed break. Families can also bring respite caregivers on full-time for a few weeks out of the year for a much-needed vacation. A recent poll of 200 family caregivers from the Caregiver Action Network found that 59 percent hadn’t taken a vacation or a meaningful break in over a year!

These short-term caregiving options are especially great around the holidays to provide a much-needed extra set of hands and give family members peace of mind that their loved one will be safe, well cared for and happy.

I have seen firsthand how these short-term caregiving options have improved the quality of life for both seniors living at home as well as their family members, who many times hardly ever take breaks. As a senior care expert for Home Care Assistance, a local senior care service here in Seattle and Bellevue, I have met a number of families whose lives have improved exponentially since bringing on short-term caregivers help out.

The holiday season shouldn’t be something you just “get through” or “survive.” It is a time you should actually be able to enjoy, especially with your older relatives. And while it’s certainly not easy, taking care of a parent can be an enriching and fulfilling experience. But in order for that to happen, a support system is absolutely essential. This might be other family members, friends, or in some cases professional caregivers, even if it’s only for a few hours each week. Families shouldn't have to bear the brunt of taking care of an elderly all on their own, especially around this busy time of year.

Matt Bolesta is a local Greenwood resident and Client Care Manager for Home Care Assistance. Matt coordinates home care services and works with healthcare professionals helping seniors throughout the Seattle area.

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