This time of year, many people look forward to days filled with holiday events. But for family caregivers, the festiveness and conviviality others enjoy during the holiday season can be a reminder of their enormous, time-intensive task.
"There are even more opportunities that you can't take advantage of," says Amy Goyer, AARP's home and family expert who specializes in aging and caregiving issues. "Caregivers really are vulnerable during this time."
For Goyer, this year is especially difficult. This will be the first holiday season without her mother, who died about six weeks ago. Goyer was her caregiver, and as her way of coping, she is trying to avoid stores with holiday decorations where she may have shopped with her mother. "Sometimes you want to protect yourself from the things that make you feel even more vulnerable," she says.
Despite their immense task, many caregivers are learning how to cope. A new AARP study shows that more than half the family caregivers rated most aspects of their lives as "high." No. 1 on that list, ranked by nearly 80 percent of caregivers: the relationship with the person they cared for. One troubling result in the survey was one-third of caregivers rated satisfaction with their job as low.
"Any caregiver is going to run into a difficult situation at work at some point," Goyer say. Goyer's new e-book, "Juggling Work and Caregiving," offers some guidance. The book is available as a free download in various formats, including for Amazon's Kindle and Barnes & Noble's Nook.
Many employees don't want their bosses to know all the responsibilities of their caregiving role for fear they might be perceived as not being committed to their job. "Communicating with your employer is really a tricky issue," Goyer says. She suggests being prudently upfront with your boss. Mention that there may be a day when a caregiving emergency arises, but at the same time reinforce how much you love your job. "People are much more amenable to that than having you constantly showing up for work late and they don't know why."
And if you are feeling depressed about missed opportunities this holiday season, Goyer says take heart in how much you are helping.
"This is the season for giving and we as caregivers are the ultimate givers," she says. "So feel good about that."
For resources on family caregiving, visit AARP's online family caregiving resource center -- bit.ly/aarp-caregiving -- or the National Alliance for Caregiving -- caregiving.org