The approaching holidays can be enriching and meaningful for both those living with dementia and his or her loved ones. While everyone benefits from maintaining or adapting cherished traditions and rituals, they can be especially important to people with dementia, who often find comfort in this connection to a familiar past.
However, holiday celebrations also have the potential to cause anxiety and confusion for someone living with dementia. Some situations may be easier and more enjoyable for them than others. If you have a loved one with Alzheimer's disease or dementia, these tips can help you balance busy holiday activities and everyday care.
Keep Things Simpler
Consider simplifying your holiday activities. Instead of cooking an elaborate dinner for several guests, consider having a smaller, more intimate dinner with close family members. Take the same approach to decorating: rather than decorating every available surface, select a small number of unique items, with a special emphasis on those that mean something to your loved one. This could be a wreath they make themselves or an ornament they’ve had since childhood.
Encourage Them to Participate
Invite the person with dementia to help you prepare for the holidays, or have him or her observe your preparations. As he or she watches you, he or she will get a sense of what is in store for the celebration. Participating with you gives the person the satisfaction of helping and the fun of reminiscing and anticipating.
Avoid Over-Stimulating Situations
Whenever possible, avoid situations that may confuse or frustrate your loved one, such as strange places and changes in routine. Seek to avoid loud music and conversations, harsh lighting, and overly-rich food or drink (especially alcohol). Should they become distressed or over-stimulated, employ quiet distractions such as going for a walk or looking through a photo album.
Let Guests Know What to Expect
Explain to guests that people with dementia may not always remember what is expected or acceptable. Provide examples of unusual behaviors that may occur, such as forgetfulness, wandering, and hallucinations. People with memory impairment may not remember the names of or relationships with guests, but they can still enjoy their company.
Ask for Help When Necessary
If you receive an invitation to an event that the person with dementia cannot attend, consider going on your own. During your absence, you can have a familiar friend or family member spend time with them. On a similar note, don’t hesitate to ask others for help with cooking, shopping, and other holiday tasks.
Finding the Right Balance is Important
It is common for caregivers to feel mixed feelings about holidays. The holidays may bring back happy memories for them, but they may also worry about the additional demands they place on their time and energy. At Mannor Law Group, we hope that these tips can help you balance holiday activities with taking care of yourself and your loved one. If we can offer additional assistance, such as helping you get the resources and support you need as a caretaker, please call us at 810-645-8426.