Adjusting Your Expectations

Preparing for holidays can be the perfect time to experiment with new roles and discover strengths within your social circle. The key is to aim for honest communication among all involved. In this way, you can work towards creating realistic plans that do not place undue strain on you or your loved one with cancer.

Some of the common challenges caregivers face during special occasions include:

  • Feeling guilty about not performing the usual tasks everyone has come to expect
  • Hesitating to ask for help with preparations
  • Saying “no” to additional responsibilities that may come up during special occasions
  • Coping with lack of sleep and fatigue
  • Feeling pressure to hide any sadness or worry

The following tips can help:

Adjust your expectations. This year, you may need to rethink how many social events to attend or presents to buy. Ask yourself if the event is too strenuous for you at this time. Changing or canceling a long-held family tradition can feel extreme, but it is also important to do what is best for you and preserve your ability to care for your loved one. For example, if you have always had a big New Year’s Eve dinner at your home, think about whether the planning, grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning are too much. If you do not wish to forego the event entirely, consider inviting fewer people, asking friends or family to share hosting duties, or organizing a potluck-style dinner instead. On the other hand, if hosting the event will not place too much stress on your time, finances or emotional well-being, this could be a great opportunity to feel “normal” during a difficult and uncertain time. Only you can know what is best for you and your situation.

Speak to your health care team about the special event. Doctors and other health care providers may have helpful suggestions for you and your loved one. They may also be able to move appointments, so that your special occasion can be celebrated as scheduled, if timing is important. As an example, one man’s health care team was able to reschedule his surgery so that the anniversary cruise he had long planned with his wife could still take place around the appropriate date.

Talk to your loved ones about trading or sharing responsibilities.. For example, if your home has traditionally been the gathering spot during special occasions, consider moving the festivities to another place. The new spot could be the home of another family member or friend, or a restaurant. Loved ones may also be able to help by grocery shopping or cleaning on your behalf.

Establish new traditions. If you have always done the baking or cooking, for example, you might ask someone else to help. Consider ordering the entire meal from a restaurant or caterer. Another option would be to ask loved ones to bring special items

Communicate with your loved one about what the special occasion means to them. For example, a birthday or holiday may have a new or different meaning for someone who is going through treatment. You may want to ask your loved one how he or she would like to celebrate the upcoming special occasion.

Enjoy special moments. Rather than dwelling on the way special occasions used to be, try to focus instead on new traditions that have been established. Stay flexible and be kind to yourself and your family.