When a loved one is diagnosed with Dementia, much of daily life changes. For some, these changes can seem even bigger during the holidays. What was once a joyous time filled with family traditions and memories, can sometimes become a painful reminder of what once was. The good news is that there are ways for both the dementia caregiver and the person living with the disease to enjoy an enriching holiday season, filled with love, laughter, and even joy. On this episode of the Advice from Your Advocates podcast, Bob was joined by fellow attorney and Certified Dementia Practitioner, Kelli King-Penner to outline some things that will be helpful to be mindful of when sharing holiday experiences with your loved one with Dementia and extended family.
As caretakers and family members, many people assisting someone with Dementia understand the importance of routine for these individuals. However, when celebrating holidays, a routine break may be unavoidable. Breaks can include a change of scenery (i.e. winter season leads to earlier sunset times), a change of environment (a different household), or being around more people than usual. These transitions or changes from their routine may cause stress or confusion for the person with dementia. Knowing this can help you prepare in advance and coordinate with family members to get the most out of the holiday.
Since the winter season leads to colder temperatures many individuals with Dementia are spending more time inside and potentially less time in larger group settings. With this in mind, we advise that there be an awareness to potential spread of infectious diseases. Pending your loved one’s health needs and risks, it might be best to consider some virtual attendees rather than all in-person if that option is available.
Beyond the physical health element, there are some key things to look out for in terms of the mental health component of Dementia and the potential triggers that holidays can bring. An example of this might be items like fake fruits or vegetables that could be out on display for decorative purposes, as the individual might not comprehend the difference. Another example could be blinking lights and or increased levels of noise from holiday music, as specific colors and sounds can affect an individual suffering from Dementia greatly.
To get ahead of triggers and ensure that the guests and environment are set up for a positive experience, here are some tips that we advise you to address with guests in advance of the gathering:
- Consider changing traditions and getting together earlier; this will allow for the individual with Dementia to not be confused by the earlier sunset time
- Input time limits for guests visiting and/or how long you or the caretaker will allow the guest with Dementia to stay; this will help the person process the interaction and not overwhelm their stimulus
- Involve the individual with Dementia in the setup or any tangible tasks that they are capable to help with; this will allow them to feel included!
- Ensure that safety measures are set up in advance; this can be as simple as shutting off spaces or obstructing areas that might be dangerous for a person with Dementia
- Remind each guest to not correct the person with Dementia even if a story seems a bit off or not quite as they remember it; this will allow for an overall positive encounter for both the guests and the individual with Dementia and helps to ensure that this will remain a positive memory for all!
- Finally, have backup measures in place that calm the individual with Dementia in case they get triggered; this can range from a stuffed animal to a favorite tv show or movie and will help to ease potential stressful situations
Overall, our biggest advice is to enjoy each moment and allow your loved one and family members to embrace this holiday season.
Are you interested in joining as a guest on the Advice From Your Advocates podcast – or is there someone you would like to hear from? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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