The holiday season is a time to enjoy family and friends, a time for traditions and celebrations. It can also be stressful, with extra demands on everyone’s time. When a loved one is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, the added demands and stresses of the holiday season can seem overwhelming. Those suffering from Alzheimer’s may feel confused or saddened by the changes in their life, and caregivers may feel stressed as they try to maintain holiday traditions while caring for their loved ones. Thankfully, the holidays can still be a time for family, friends, and fun, as long as some adjustments are made.
If you have always been the host of family gatherings, but this year you are also the primary caregiver for someone with Alzheimer’s, the Alzheimer’s Association has the following suggestions that may help to keep the holiday season a happy and memorable occasion:
- Contact family and friends who will be visiting for the holidays two or three weeks ahead of the holiday to discuss your caregiving situation so everyone will know what to expect. This can be done by writing an e-mail or having a phone call to discuss changes in your loved one and prepare other family members for the possibility that their loved one may be confused or forgetful.
- Greeting cards are often appreciated and especially treasured by someone dealing with Alzheimer’s. Suggest to family members that they send a greeting card and include a photo. This may help your loved one to recognize the sender when they arrive.
- Ask for help. Caregiving is a tough job, so delegate some of the holiday tasks to others. Perhaps make one or more of the meals pot-luck style or order a meal with all the trimmings from a local caterer or restaurant.
- Adjust your schedule and consider having the main holiday meal at noon or early in the afternoon, to avoid confusion and upset if the individual with Alzheimer’s becomes tired in the early evening. Keeping rooms brightly lit may also help.
- Involve your loved one in the preparations as much as possible. Helping with baking, gift-wrapping, or setting the table are tasks that are safe and manageable. Your loved one may also enjoy helping with decorating and the activity may lessen their confusion over changes in their familiar surroundings. Avoid over-stimulating decorations like flashing lights, or décor such as lighted candles which could be hazardous.
- Keep activities simple. Music is often enjoyed and remembered after other memories are lost. Singing familiar carols or watching holiday classics can be an enjoyable, comforting tradition for the entire family.
- Adapt to the need for rest and familiarity by keeping one room in the home unaltered by decoration and holiday festivities. It is usually best to keep the room of the individual with Alzheimer’s unchanged. It will give them a refuge if the day becomes overwhelming or fatiguing.
Traditions and celebrations are wonderful, but the holidays are truly about enjoying the company of friends and loved ones. Including a loved one with Alzheimer’s demands flexibility and creativity from everyone, but the joy of togetherness is the greatest gift of all.
If someone you love is living with dementia or Alzheimer’s, it is important to know what to expect as the condition progresses. CareFocus Companion Services can help by providing you and your loved one with the support resources necessary to cope with the sometimes-overwhelming struggles of caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease. For more information on CareFocus Companion's Alzheimer’s care services in your area, contact your companion care office today.
This information is not meant as a substitute for professional, medical, or nutritional advice and consultation. When differences exist between the information here and information given to you by your healthcare provider(s), you should follow the advice of your healthcare provider(s). Any additional information or clarification needed should be sought from the Physician, Practitioner, Speech Pathologist, or Nutritionist who is familiar with the individual’s health and medical conditions.