We spoke to George, a psychologist on the LiveBig team, about the challenges people with disability and their carers face over the holiday period, and some helpful strategies and tools to make the most out of Christmas.  

What are some challenges faced by people with disability and their carers in the holiday season?

The holiday season can create a variety of stressors for people with disability, and those that take care of them. Some challenges that must be acknowledged are:

Feeling more isolated

With businesses closing and not having regular appointments with their specialists, people with disability can feel more isolated during this time. In addition, friends and family who regularly check in may be busier, leading to negative emotions such as depression if someone is feeling more alone than their peers who are enjoying the festive season.

A new challenge this year has been COVID-19. Through the lockdowns and border closures, there are certain parts of Australia and the world that we cannot access, leading to loneliness during the festive season.

Travel planning

For carers or individuals with a disability, especially those with a physical disability, booking accommodation and making travel arrangements is especially stressful.

Heightened anxiety

Busy shopping centres, heightened foot traffic, and overcrowding are a variety of reasons why an individual with a disability can become increasingly anxious in the holiday season.

Pressure on carers

For the carers of people with disability, it’s a difficult time to manage expectations and emotions while preparing for their own holiday period. It is important to take these individuals into consideration, as there are less resources available and more pressure to ensure their dependants needs are met.

What are some strategies to help clients and carers manage this period?

There are a couple of key strategies that carers and people with disability can put in place to manage the expectations and needs of an individual with disability.

For carers, be mindful of your own mental health and watch for burnout. Everyone is different and reacts differently, so it’s important to identify the feelings leading up to burning out to look after your own health and reacting to these emotions by destressing. Help is always at hand, and it’s important for you to have fun and relax during this festive season. Here are a couple strategies to utilise:

Plan ahead

Ensuring that any holiday plans are thoroughly planned ahead is a great action plan when managing accommodation, travel, and the feelings of anxiety. For example, when organising transport, its important to take into consideration the accessibility requirements needed for the person with a disability, and to prebook modes of transportation such as taxi’s. Also, in seeking out accommodation, access ability and location within vicinity of activities and transport to parking must be considered. By planning ahead, you can research these elements, and when the day comes to travel, you can keep focused on the individual with a disability and manage emotions such as feeling overwhelmed.  

Safety plan

A safety plan should be made in case of any issues that could potentially occur, which is likely to happen when travel is involved. An idea could be to have a contact card or book made for the carer and person with disability to hold each other’s phone numbers and booked addresses if one were to lose the other or in the case of an emergency. For the carer, this may involve equipping the person with disability with food and water that is easily accessed.

For people with a disability, make sure you have some fun this holiday season. There are many ways to participate in the Christmas festivities. Have a great time by making time to:

Keep in touch with friends and family

To manage negative emotions or feelings of isolation, making regular plans to see family and friends is key. Reach out to trusted friends and family that you can contact easily and make plans on a regular basis that you can look forward to. This could be a simple get together with friends, or trying out a new activity with a family member, but the important aspect is engaging with people during this time.

A reminder to be COVID safe and mindful of social distancing during this period. If you are unable to see friends and family face-to-face over this period, organising regular phone or video calls and planning virtual activities is a great way to engage.

Practicing healthy habits

Creating a routine that incorporates healthy aspects, such as regular exercise, practicing mindfulness or eating something healthy, can help keep spirits high. Another great way to stay engaged and happy in the holiday period is to create your own celebrations and traditions over the holiday period. Why not cook a festive meal, create a decoration, or purchase an advent calendar?

Although safety and attending to the needs of the individual with a disability is paramount, it’s also important to participate in this festive season and have fun! Christmas may look different this year because of Covid-19, but utilising advice and strategies is a way to make Christmas more enjoyable.

LiveBig would like to wish our clients and their friends and family a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. See you in 2021!