Holiday Survival Tips for Families Affected by Alzheimer’s Disease or Dementia
For any family, the holidays can bring a mix of joy, gratitude, and a healthy dose of yuletide stress. Planning family get-togethers, shopping for gifts, and traveling can be a burden on any family—especially for a family coping with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. For these families, the holidays can be bittersweet. Festivities can agitate, confuse, or over stimulate persons with cognitive disorders or memory impairment. Meanwhile, caregivers can feel anxious, frustrated, or lonely—leading to stress or depression. Below are a few helpful tips for families coping with Alzheimer’s during the holiday season:
Tip 1: Plan Ahead
Individuals who experience the most difficulty with the holiday season are those who have given little thought to the challenges they will encounter. Caregivers should consider ahead of time what may be expected of them, both socially and emotionally.
Tip 2: Take Care of Yourself
Remember, the holidays are opportunities to share time with people you love. Try to make these celebrations easy on yourself and the person with a cognitive disorder so that you may concentrate on enjoying your time together. Keep family and friends in the loop and do your best to maintain a positive mental attitude among the group.
Tip 3: Prepare the Person with Dementia for the Family Gathering
Preparing your loved one for the upcoming holiday events can allow both of you to enjoy the warmth of the season. It can be helpful to mention and show photos of family members and friends who will be visiting before they arrive.
Tip 4: Prepare Family Members and Friends
Preparing families and friends with an honest appraisal of the person’s condition can help avoid uncomfortable or harmful situations. Familiarize family members and friends with your loved one’s behaviors and condition changes.
Tip 5: Involve Everyone when Selecting Activities
Involve everyone in holiday activities including the individual with dementia. Consider taking walks, icing cookies, telling stories, doing chores, making a memory book or family tree, or keeping a journal. To encourage conversation, place magazines, scrapbooks, or photo albums in reach; play music to prompt dancing or other kinds of exercise.
Tip 6: Communicate with Success
Alzheimer’s disease can diminish a person’s ability to communicate. Do your best to remain calm and supportive if the person has trouble communicating. Speak slowly with a relaxed tone and avoid criticism. For example, when someone forgets a recent conversation, avoid saying, “Don’t you remember?” Be patient, flexible, and do not argue with the individual with Alzheimer’s.
Tip 7: Practice Smart Gift Giving
Encourage family and friends to give useful, practical gifts for the person such as an identification bracelet. Other gifts may include comfortable, easy-to-remove clothing, audiotapes of favorite music, videos, and photo albums. Advise others not to give gifts such as dangerous tools or instruments, utensils, challenging board games, complicated electronic equipment, or pets.
Tip 8: Maintain A Safe Environment in the Home
Persons with dementia may experience changes in judgment. This behavior may lead to confusion, frustration, or wandering. To reduce the risk of injury and situations that could be confusing to someone with dementia, consider assigning a “buddy” to watch out for the person to ensure their comfort and limiting access to places where injuries occur, such as a kitchen or stairwell. Be sure to keep emergency phone numbers and a list of medications handy.
Tip 9: Travel Wisely
If traveling with an individual who suffers from a cognitive disorder is mandatory, ensure a positive traveling experience by using familiar modes of transportation and avoid peak travel times. Keep plans simple and maintain daily routines as much as possible, while allowing extra time to avoid the stress of rushing. Arrange for services, such as wheelchairs, ahead of time.
Tip 10: Reliable sources of support
Families can call the Alzheimer’s Association at 727-578-2558 or the 24-hour Helpline at 1-800-772-8672 to answer questions about warning signs and to assist persons with dementia and caregivers. The Helpline is open all Christmas day and New Year day, as well as year round.
Learn more about spending your holidays with a loved one with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease by exploring the Alzheimer’s Association’s full, detailed list of tips here. To learn more about Parc Provence, the St. Louis region’s leaders in dementia and Alzheimer’s disease care, or schedule a tour, contact us today at (314) 542-2500.