Decking the Caregiving Halls with the Gift of Help

You don’t want helping to become a burden, or to depend on someone to the point that they burn out. Availability may be a concern. Over the holidays there just isn’t a lot of free time. It helps to incorporate your needs with that of others. For example, instead of making three pumpkin pies, can your friend make four? If Jane is out shopping, can she pick up a few items on your gift list?
It all begins when you notify your elf helpline early—before the worst of the holiday rush hits. Explain what you’re going to need, and ask if you can count on their support. Be sure to give Santa’s helpers a general idea of when you need the job completed.
Medical—Getting a doctor’s appointment will be harder than ever through the end of the year. Try to cover all of the medical needs early and get them out of the way. Plan in advance to have all prescriptions filled, especially if you’re going to be traveling. If the patient is under home care or hospice care, confirm the holiday schedule with the nurse. If you’re going to need extra help from your professional caregiving company, let them know well in advance.
Family—Notify family members for availability to help with the patient, elderly parents, or children. This can be a sensitive area because you need complete confidence and trust in your resources. You deserve to go to that holiday party, so ask ahead to make sure that the patient and other care receivers are going to be appropriately cared for. Instead of large family gatherings, it may be a good idea to have smaller, intimate get-togethers at your house.
Personal—Talk to your friends in advance, and let them know what you will or won’t be able to do with them during the holidays. Instead of meeting in a restaurant to exchange gifts with the girls, have everyone bring a covered dish to your house—as long as the noise won’t bother the patient. Have a tree decorating party! Be creative—incorporate the help that you can use with the camaraderie that you need.
Technical—You may need help from people with computer savvy. Shopping online for gifts will help tremendously as opposed to having to leave the house, and fight the shopping madness (not to mention a mall full of germs). Having the gifts delivered directly to your house—many times with free shipping—is a great option. While it’s not as much fun as actual shopping, you never have to leave the care receiver.
Spiritual—Try to attend those holiday cantatas and live nativities. Ask the carolers to come by your house! Faith and prayer are especially important to people going through difficult, stressful holidays. It can be soothing to the patient and caregiver to receive visits from ministers, rabbis or priests.
General home front—These are the people who can help you with things such as decorating, cooking fruitcakes, and wrapping presents. And, don’t forget that what goes up must come down—all of those decorations will need to be taken down and stored after Santa comes down the chimney.
Financial—Try to keep gift costs down to a reasonable level, especially if a loss of income or high medical bills go along with your caregiving responsibilities. The gifts for the kids are important, but most adults will understand the absence of a wrapped gift. Let’s face it—we really have all that we need if we have love and care. Ask your friends for non-monetary gifts this year, such as fixing that leaky faucet. In fact, make a complete list of general chores that need to be done, and pass them out to people that offer to help.
Information—Holidays are a time when groups will be gathering and talking about those who are going through tough times. Set up an informed spokesperson for each of these groups: family, friends, work, church, neighbors and organizations. Provide each spokesperson with the right information to offer if the topic of you and your care receiver comes up. Include the items on your “wish list”—just in case the opportunity arises for a little additional support.

The Saving of Gordon: Lifelines to W-I-N Against Cancer (available at
Based on Joni’s experience and years of research, this inspirational and informative book is designed to give families a fighting chance in their own cancer battle.
Would you like to send something special to someone that’s going through a health-related hardship this holiday season? Instead of a poinsettia or fruitcake, why not send them a Basket of Care ( These baskets are lovingly designed by a cancer survivor, and chock full of items that will lend comfort. Care baskets include such items as warm blankets, angels, slipper socks, hope messages, note cards, and books by Joni Aldrich. Or what about a “Day at the Beach” basket for a child who is ill? A Basket of Care is just the way to say, “I care” over the holidays.

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