Holiday stress management tips for ohana caregivers


The holidays are an exciting and magical time of year for all ages. For ohana caregivers it can also be a stressful time.

What is an ohana caregiver?

A quick look at University of Hawaii at Manoa’s ‘Ohana Caregiver website,, and we find the definition: “Someone who takes care of family members aside from or in addition to their own children.”

The two most common ohana caregivers on Maui are grandparents raising their grandchildren and adults caring for older family members.

Are you an ohana caregiver?

If yes, consider these tips to help manage holiday-related stress so this time of year is more relaxed and enjoyable:

Take care of your needs. Others depend on and benefit when you are healthy. It’s OK — even essential — to focus on your own needs. Without it, you are unable to continue caregiving. Regular sleep, moderate exercise, a healthy diet, stretching, meditation and a couple minutes of deep breathing are important ways to take care of your needs.

Assess your holiday stress. What causes holiday stress for you? Is it shopping, holiday cards, holiday cooking? Are there changes you can make to reduce some of that stress?

Create new memories or traditions. With all the responsibilities of caregivers, elaborate traditions may not be realistic. Consider introducing new memories or new traditions. Perhaps order takeout, eat at a restaurant or substitute a full dinner party with a potluck pupu or dessert party.

Give yourself permission to not feel “merry & bright.” Watching a loved one’s health deteriorate or wishing a grandchild could celebrate the holidays with his or her parents can trigger feelings of loss and grief. These feelings are natural and it’s important to allow yourself time to experience these emotions. If these feelings are overwhelming, a counselor or therapist can help work through and deal with these emotions in productive and healthy ways.

Reach out to community resources. Being an ohana caregiver may feel isolating at times. A caregiver of an older family member may be more confined to the home. A grandparent raising grandchildren may have difficulty connecting with friends. Support groups can be an ideal place to meet other caregivers who understand and can offer tips and a listening ear. Many other resources are available to assist the ohana caregiver. Below are just a few examples.

Resources for caregivers of older adults:

• Maui County Office on Aging provides information, referrals and resources for adults 60 years and older as well as grandparents raising grandchildren. Contact it by phone on Maui at 270-7774, on Molokai at 553-5241, or on Lanai at 565-6818.

• University of Hawaii Extension — Maui County collaborates with Maui County Office on Aging to provide a six-week class called Powerful Tools for Caregivers that focus on tools and resources that help family caregivers thrive and not just survive. For the 2018 class schedule, contact 244-3242, ext. 226.

• Maui Adult Day Care provides adult day services, monthly support groups and other resources for families and care receivers. To learn more, it can be reached at 871-5804.

• Alzheimer’s Association offers workshops, consultations and resources to caregivers of adults with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias. Contact the Maui office at 242-8636, ext. 8243.

Resources for grandparents raising grandchildren:

• University of Hawaii Extension — Maui County operates a program called GRANDcares, which provides workshops and talk story sessions, six-week workshop series and monthly events specifically for grandfamilies to meet and create a support network. For information on upcoming events, contact or call 244-3242, ext. 226.

• Legal Aid Society of Hawaii provides legal counsel, advice and representation for custody, guardianship, adoption and other related issues to grandparents raising grandchildren. Its phone number is 244-3731.

• Catholic Charities Hawaii licenses and trains relatives as resource caregivers and works with grandparents and other family members. Call 872-6210.

While holiday stress cannot be eliminated, there are many tools and strategies that help to make it a little more manageable.

Here’s to a safe and healthy holiday season.

* Heather Greenwood Junkermeier is with the University of Hawaii Manoa Cooperative Extension, Maui Intergenerational and Aging Programs. “Aging Matters” covers topics of interest to the aging Maui community and appears on the third Sunday of each month.