Many people enjoy putting their feet up and relaxing over Christmas. But for carers the challenges of looking after someone combined with the extra pressures of Christmas can mean they don't get the chance to have a break. Christmas is a time for family, festivities and fun, but when you’re a carer it can be a difficult time for many reasons.
What carers say about Christmas
Lucy, aged 20, looks after her mum who has schizoaffective disorder and non-epileptic attack disorder.
"It's hard being a carer at Christmas as there is more for the carer to do – there's more stress. Getting presents for everybody, making sure all the food is in the house, making sure all the bills are paid (even though you’ve got to buy so many Christmas presents that you can't really afford it all anyway), and above all, making sure the person you care for has as little stress as possible over the holidays because you know it would have a negative effect on them.
Sometimes my mam gets upset as she feels like she should be the responsible one as she's my mum.’’ Via Carers Trust
Linda Lee cares for her husband, Des who has Parkinson's and dementia.
Linda spoke to BCC Radio Leicester about how she would be looking after Des over the Christmas period, and how his condition had impacted on their plans for the festive season. Listen to Linda's story on the BBC website instead.
Jackie cares for her brother, Mark, who has Huntington's disease
Mark developed Huntington's disease in his late 20s. The condition also took Mark and Jackie's mum, uncle and grandmother. Jackie now cares for Mark full time in their home in West Yorkshire, where they live with Sybil the dog and Jackie's partner. Jackie spoke to Carers UK to give a snapshot of the extra pressures of caring at Christmas.
Top tips for dealing with Christmas as a carer
Try and plan as much as you can in advance, particularly if the person you look after likes or needs routine.
Agree an approach – talk with your family and friends about how you’re going to approach Christmas as well as discussing any worries or concerns you have. Everyone being on the same page (or as a close as you can) can help alleviate stress, reduce conflict and make the festive period run smoother.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. As a carer it’s important you try and get a rest over Christmas too. If you’ve got friends and family who could help, even for a couple of hours, don’t be afraid to ask them. Many people don’t realise the impact caring can have but may be able to offer support if you explain.
Get a break, if you can. If you haven’t got anyone who could help, or the person you look after needs more intensive care, consider using a replacement care service so you can get a break. If you haven't already had one in the last 12 months, you could request a Carers Assessment which may lead to you being awarded a carer personal budget to help pay for a break. Or you could buy a service privately. The taking a break page has information on how to find local services.
Talk to other carers - If it’s not possible for you to get a break, you may be able to get comfort and support by talking to other carers in the same situation. One way to do this over Christmas is online groups and forums. You can also use telephone helplines, but check their Christmas opening times.
Plan a Dementia Friendly Christmas - if the person you look after has dementia the festive period can cause them extra confusion and stress. The Alzheimer's Society have produced a short video and top tips on how small changes can make Christmas as dementia friendly as possible.
Check Christmas opening times - some local and national services are limited over Christmas so you and the person you look after may find it harder to access support if you need it. Try and find out in advance which local services will be available. Many emergency/ crisis services are listed on our ‘are you a carer in crisis page’ – if you think you may possibly need to use any of these services, contact them or look on their website to find out their Christmas opening hours. Think too about pharmacies and GPs surgery opening times to make sure you’ve got all the medication you need to see you through to the New Year.
Stay warm and well - it's important for you both to stay healthy and warm all through the winter but at Christmas when services are not always available, it's worth taking extra care and being prepared. Local NHS services have put together a fun animated video about staying well for the 12 days of Christmas and we've got top tips and information on our keeping warm and well in winter page.
Keep calm and relax as much as you can. This A-Z guide to surviving Christmas has some really handy tips on dealing with stress and anger.
Free / low cost events you may enjoy in the run up to Christmas 2018
Dementia Friendly Matinee Screenings are showing Christmas classics such as White Christmas, Miracle on 34th Street and A Christmas Carol at venues across the county. Various Dates (carer's ticket is free)
Derbyshire Carers Association Celebration Services at the Crooked Spire, Chesterfield on Thursday 13 December and Derby Cathedral on Monday 10 December
Derbyshire Carers Association free pantomine tickets for carers - 2 tickets per carers to see either Cinderella at Chesterfield Pomegranite on Thursday 6 December, Jack & The Beanstalk at Derby Arena on Tuesday 18 December or Dick Whittington at Buxton Opera House on Thursday 20 December.
Dementia Friends Session Christmas Special - Thursday 20 December from 6.30pm at the Conservative Club, Dale Road, Matlock. Mince pies, coffee plus the bar will be available if you want to enjoy a drink. No need to book, just turn up.
Autism / Disability-friendly Santa's Grotto at Four Seasons Shopping Centre, Mansfield on Sunday 16 December from 4.30pm to 6pm. This 90 minute session will be available for children who would benefit from a quieter setting, dimmed lights and the centre’s shops closed. The centre will also have The Hive open nearby as a quiet place to go to if needed by parents or children. Tickets £4.
Hansel and Gretal - dementia friendly performance on Friday 28 December plus relaxed performaces (aimed at those on the autistic spectrum and/or sensory sensitivities) on Tuesday 18 December and Thursday 3 January 2019. All at Derby Theatre.
Boxing Day Raft Race - a raft race from Matlock to Cromford along the River Derwent, Wednesday 26 December, approx 9am
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year
Thank you for supporting Carers in Derbyshire for our first 18 months! It’s amazing to think that in March 2019 we’ll have been live for two years.
We hope you and all of the 118,000 carers across Derbyshire and Derby City have a lovely Christmas. Best wishes for the New Year.
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