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Caregiving Holiday Tips: 3 Ways to Deal with Difficult Family

dealing with difficult family

Holidays can bring out the worst

The stress of the holidays can bring out the worst in people. It’s a hectic time that’s full of unreasonable expectations.

That can make difficult or insensitive family members especially hard to deal with when you’re caring for an older adult and hoping for extra support.

We’ve all struggled with family members who:

  1. Don’t invite you or your older adult to their holiday gatherings

  2. Extend an invitation, but don’t consider your older adult’s needs and realistic capabilities

  3. Are offended when you explain that your older adult can no longer participate in certain family traditions

  4. Blame YOU for being difficult or overprotective of your older adult

To make your holiday season more pleasant, we share 3 ways for dealing with these difficult individuals.


3 tips for dealing with difficult family during the holidays

1. Reset your expectations Consistently thoughtless people are not likely to change their behavior, so your best option is to adjust your own expectations.

Don’t expect your brother, who hasn’t called all year, to visit mom for the holidays.

Stop hoping that your sister, who’s always full of excuses why she can’t help care for dad, will come through in the end and help you prepare Thanksgiving dinner.

Once you accept the fact that they’re not going to change, you can make your own plans without anxiously wondering if a holiday miracle will happen.

While it’s certainly not ideal or fair, removing the uncertainty reduces stress and helps you get on with your holiday season and enjoy it as much as possible.

2. Reset your older adult’s expectations Despite these uncooperative family members, you still want your older adult to feel the holiday love and togetherness.

So if holiday plans won’t be what they expect, let them know about significant changes ahead of time so they won’t feel blindsided.

But in some cases, you may want to protect them from getting hurt by fibbing about the reason why things will be different.

This may be needed if your older adult has dementia and won’t be able to fully process hurt feelings or if they will repeatedly ask about holiday plans.

For example, your sister normally hosts Thanksgiving dinner, but doesn’t want you to bring dad because she can’t handle seeing him now that his Alzheimer’s disease has progressed.

A few days before the dinner, tell your dad that your sister and family just got a terrible flu. The doctor says they’re highly contagious and have to stay in bed and away from others. Instead, you’ll be hosting the lovely Thanksgiving dinner.

Your dad will be disappointed, but not as upset as he would be if he knew he wasn’t welcome at your sister’s table.

3. Exclude truly toxic individuals There are certain family members who are mean and nasty, looking for financial handouts, or bring up unpleasant memories for your older adult.

The holidays may be a time for togetherness, but these toxic individuals take the joy out of the season.

To protect your older adult and yourself, don’t feel guilty about excluding those people from your holiday gathering.

To reduce possible confrontation, you might use health concerns or Covid-19 precautions as an excuse.

If they do confront you about being left out, you could say something like “I’m sorry, but mom isn’t well enough this year for a large group. Maybe we can arrange a visit after the holidays.”

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By DailyCaring Editorial Team


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