The stakes are different as the holidays arrive, especially in year #2 of the pandemic. While carols are playing, there are emotional minefields at every bend, especially for caregivers. This holiday season is a weary one for healthcare workers in the hospital setting to those serving in long-term care services.
For many, the holidays are a time of celebration and gatherings, but let us not forget those working tirelessly amid unprecedented staffing shortages and the sudden surge in COVID cases.
Research consistently reports that caregivers report much higher stress levels than the average person; it is a certainty that CNAs, PSWs, nurses, and other caregiving staff feel the additional strain of the holidays. Their professional burdens often transfer to their personal lives, leaving a domino effect of anxiety to entire families.
What can we do to honor and support caregivers this holiday (and always)?
- ctice extreme gratitude. If you are visiting your loved one, bring a little something for care partners with a note that sincerely expresses your appreciation for all they do. Gifts of gratitude cannot be understated. Ask your community or agency leaders what gifts are allowed and within company guidelines.
- Practice abundant patience. One of my favorite quotes of this past year states, "The world is short-staffed. Please be kind to those who show up." Across the healthcare spectrum, severe staffing shortages translate to long waits. There is no way around this, and the best gift you can offer pressured staff is to remain calm.
- Practice bountiful kindness. Despite the world telling us the holidays are holly and jolly, caregivers are not immune to the widespread experience of grief, loss, and loneliness heightened around the holidays. We don't know others' stories and what burdens they are carrying. Your kind words may make the difference in bringing a smile or tear to another.
- Practice overflowing empathy. Caregiving requires 24/7 shifts. Many work overtime, often having fluctuating shift times, interrupting healthy sleep patterns and eating habits. If they seem tired and less than joyful, it's because they are! Empathy is about walking in someone else's shoes. Stop and think about the vital work they provide and understand what they may be experiencing physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
- Practice generous laughter when appropriate. There are times when sadness and frustration can lead to tears. Or we can choose to embrace small opportunities for joy and laughter. An exhausted caregiver may appreciate moments of laughter amid stress and chaos more than you know.
These simple practices can be a gift to caregivers, your loved ones, family members, and friends this holiday and beyond. Honoring those serving in the front lines of caring for others should be a daily reminder to us of the essential role caregivers play in our society.
Often forgotten, caregivers are truly heroes. The team at AGE-u-cate Training Institute thanks you for your undying service to others in need.