Categorized | Legal Matters

Who was supposed to be watching grandma?

By Cathleen Summers

For family caregivers the added stress of the holidays with decorating, shopping, parties and keeping up with all the family traditions is an overwhelming quest. Feelings of isolation, depression and sadness come with this added stress.

There are millions of Americans who are caring for elderly, frail loved ones and most of these caregivers will go through some of these emotions, especially this time of year. There are some things you can do as a caregiver to help you and those you care for enjoy the holiday season.

Take care of yourself first —Try to eat right, get plenty of sleep and exercise. This will help reduce stress and strengthen your ability to cope with caregiving responsibilities.

Prioritize your holiday traditions — Perhaps instead of cooking a large family dinner, have everyone bring his or her favorite dish. Use paper plates. Forfeit the traditional outside light decorating for a lighted wreath on the front door. Choose one or two parties or concerts to attend instead of trying to do it all.

Arrange for help. Call on other family members to help with the caregiving while you do your shopping or go out for the evening. If family is not available, ask your church group or a neighbor if they would donate a few hours.

Use community services — Many senior centers provide meals for the elderly and supervised activities, onsite, at no charge or a minimal charge. For locating senior services in your state, call your state Area Agency on Aging or check the national locator website at

You are not alone — Join a caregiving help group. Your local senior center may have one or go on the Internet to find one. Hearing about other caregivers’ problems and solutions and being able to share your own and ask questions is a great way to relieve stress and gain a new perspective. Check out websites like the National Family Caregivers Association at

Work with a care manager — Recognize that you are doing the very best you know how. You are not a geriatric health care practitioner, geriatric care manager, home care nurse or aide, hospice provider or family mediation counselor, nor do you have the years of training and experience these professionals have, but you can definitely use their experience. In fact, using a care manager will make caregiving easier for you and more beneficial for your elderly family member. A Care Coordinator will:

•Help clients and families identify care problems and assist in solving them.

•Identify and arrange in-home help or other services.

•Coordinate with medical and health providers.

•Provide support, guidance, and advocacy during a crisis.

•Help with coordinating transfer and transportation of an older person to or from a retirement complex, assisted care living facility, or nursing home.

•Provide education.

•Offer counseling and support.

The holiday times can be both a source of great family enjoyable and incredible stress. It is important, as a caregiver, to find ways to help to alleviate the stress on you so that you can be more effective in your role as caregiver. One more thing to remember, as a family caregiver, the greatest gift you are giving this holiday season is love.

Cathleen H. Summers, a founding partner of Summers, Summers & Associates, P.C. an elder law, estate and life planning law firm located in Acton, Mass. She may be reached at or by calling 978-263-0006. Archives of articles from previous issues can be read at


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