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 will be looking after Des this Christmas, and how his condition has impacted on their plans for the festive season. Listen to the audio clip (right/above) to hear her story.
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 paying for replacement care so you can get a break? You could get 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.
Check Christmas opening times - some local and national services are limited over Christmas so you and the person you look after 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 page.
Keep as calm and relax as much as you can. This A-Z guide to surviving Christmas has some really handy tips.
Free / low cost events you may enjoy in the run up to Christmas
Dementia Friendly Matinee Screenings are showing Christmas classics such as White Christmas, Meet Me in St Louis and It’s a Wonderful Life at venues across the county. Various Dates (carer's ticket is free)
Derbyshire Carers Celebration Service at the Crooked Spire, Chesterfield. Thursday 14 December (free)
Ashbourne & District Community Christmas Cracker Event - advice on staying safe and well as well as festive performances. Friday 15 December (free)
Demetia Friendly Christmas Tea Dance - hosted by Making Space at Ripley Leisure Centre. Friday 15 December (free)
Shipley Community Park, Christmas Carol Concert - join Marlpool United Reformed Church Theatre Company for a sing-along of traditional carols to celebrate the festive season. Sunday 17 December, 3pm-4pm (free)
Bakwell Village Christmas Baazar, Bakewell Town Hall, Monday 18 December, 10am-4pm (free)
An afternoon of variety – music, songs, comedy plus health and wellbeing advice at the Winding Wheel, Chesterfield. Tuesday 19 December
Buxton Christmas Farmers Market - fresh produce, crafts and treats such as mulled wine, Saturday 23 December (free entry)
Ashbourne Carol Service - carols around the Christmas Tree accompanied by Ashbourne brass band, Sunday 24 Decemeber, 7.30pm (free)
Boxing Day Raft Race - a raft race from Matlock to Cromford along the River Derwent, Tuesday 26 December, approx 9am (free)
You can find more local events on the Visit Derbyshire website including carol services, Christmas lights, santa visits and more. Derbyshire Life also has details of carol services you may be interested in.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year
Thank you for supporting Carers in Derbyshire in our first year. It’s amazing to think that in March we’ll have been live for a whole year.
We hope you and all of the 118,000 carers across Derbyshire and Derby City have the best Christmas you can. Best wishes for the New Year.
Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook to keep up with news and events..