Helping Those with Alzheimer’s, and Their Caregivers, Enjoy the Holidays

December 16, 2019

Holidays are often filled with opportunities to spend time together, laughing and sharing memories. They can also be filled with stress and sadness, especially for someone with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. They may feel a special sense of loss during the holidays, as a result of the changes they’ve experienced. Caregivers may also feel overwhelmed as they try to provide care while maintaining holiday traditions.

Before the holiday season is fully underway, it’s important to understand Alzheimer’s and where your loved one is in the process, as well as to gauge their (and your) expectations of the holiday.

Adjust Expectations

Communicate with family members ahead of time to discuss upcoming holiday celebrations. Be sure everyone understands your caregiving situation and has realistic expectations of what you’re able to do. To make everyone more comfortable, explain expected behaviors of the person with Alzheimer’s ahead of time.

Give yourself permission to do ONLY what you can reasonably manage. Consider cooking a simpler meal than you have in the past and ask others bring a dish.

Involve the Person with Alzheimer’s

  • Show them photos and talk about the people who are coming to visit, beginning the week before.
  • Involve them in safe, manageable preparations like wrapping packages or decorating the table. Try to build these activities into their familiar routine.
  • Play familiar holiday music and serve favorite traditional foods they’ll enjoy.

Try to Be Flexible

  • Alter your mealtime if necessary.  Lunch or brunch may help avoid typical evening confusion or “sundowning,” a condition that sometimes affects people with Alzheimer’s late in the day.
  • Have a quiet room so the person with memory loss can have a place to go if they begin to feel overwhelmed.
  • Provide name tags for everyone. The person with memory loss may recognize faces of family members, but may not remember names.
  • Arrange for in-home care if you’re a primary caregiver, so you can rest or spend some holiday time with family and friends without the worry of care-taking.

Celebrating in Memory Care

  • Plan to take part in the community’s holiday celebration.
  • Plan visits earlier in the day – the best time to plan activities for those with
    memory loss is between 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.
  • Have family members visit in small numbers, not as a large crowd.
  • Find a quiet place to visit, away from the hustle and bustle of activity.
  • Planning a visit on a day near the holiday may work just as well or better than a visit on the actual holiday.

Try to remember that the feeling of knowing they’re loved is the most special gift you can give to your loved one with memory loss. To learn more about our approach to caring for your loved ones with Alzheimer’s, visit our memory care page.

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