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AARP Expert

#4 - Caregiver Holiday Survival Tip: Adjust Holiday Meal Plans

Even in a "normal" (i.e. non-pandemic) year, getting big holiday meals together while caregiving is a huge challenge. As caregivers we have to be flexible and find a way to have the joy of a holiday meal without letting it take us under. So that leads to my 4th holiday tip:


Adjust Meal Plans

Food is a big part of many holidays, so it’s especially difficult to think about changing mealtime traditions. But meals also require a lot of time, money and coordination. Over many years of caregiving, I found doing holiday baking and meals so exhausting that I couldn’t even enjoy them. So rather than canceling holiday meals entirely, I’ve learned to make adjustments like these:

  • Simplify the menu. Try fewer side dishes or one dessert instead of three. Which dishes are most meaningful and important to you? The meal doesn't have to be everything this year - it just needs to be simple, meaningful and delicious.
  • Split up the grocery shopping and cooking among other family members, neighbors or friends who are willing to help. If sharing a meal in person isn't possible due to the pandemic, maybe family members could drop off some food for you and your loved ones to enjoy - a great holiday gift. Someone else could do your grocery shopping for you and drop it off too. Check out AARP Community Connections where local mutual aid groups are listed - there may be someone in your community willing to volunteer and help you out with shopping or cooking this year!
  • Purchase all or part of meals at a local grocery store or restaurant — either fully cooked or ready for you to cook at home. Many restaurants and stores are offering special delicious holiday meals this year for curbside pick up or for delivery! I did this for many years and while the food wasn't exactly our old family recipes, it was good enough and SO much easier than trying to cook all of it while caregiving. My sisters or I usually also made at least one dish - like my grandmother's green beans recipe - to make it feel more traditional. Even of you don't bake the pumpkin pie, you can still have pumpkin pie and that's that tradition!  Believe me, you'll be so relieved that it takes the sting out of not making your traditional dishes.
  • Share a meal virtually - use technology to bring family and friends together! This year many families will share meals, they just won't be in the same place. You can each eat your own meal and still visit while eating. If your loved ones are living in a facility and you can't visit to share a meal, you can eat at the same time on video (and for some of you who live in a warm winter climate you could set up your table outside their window and eat at the same time they do inside!). If at home, you might bring your laptop and monitor to the dining room so you can see everyone on a larger screen. You can even share meal preparation and baking together via video! 

Hope you and your family find ways to make holiday meals special this year! Consider it a challenge and adventure - you've got this! 


Take care,

Amy Goyer, AARP Family & Caregiving Expert

Author, Juggling Life, Work and Caregiving


P.S. - below are links to my others Holiday Tips!


#10 - Caregiver Holiday Survival Tip: Ask for and Accept Help

#9 - Caregiver Holiday Survival Tip: Connect with Other Caregivers

#8 - Caregiver Holiday Survival Tip: Keep Up with Self-Care

#7 - Caregiver Holiday Survival Tip: Mind Your Holiday Mindset

#6 - Caregiver Holiday Survival Tip: Anticipate Holiday Hot Buttons

#5 - Caregiver Holiday Survival Tip: Approach Gift-Giving More Efficiently

#3 - Caregiver Holiday Survival Tip: Start NEW Traditions!

#2 - Caregiver Holiday Survival Tip: Simplify your Holiday Activities

#1 - Caregiver Holiday Survival Tip: Focus on What is Most Meaningful

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