Holidays are full of families & traditions, but can be a challenge for families living with dementia. With a little planning & adjustments, the holidays can be an enjoyable time for your family.
- Update others of your current status with a short note or call briefly explaining some of the changes visitors might notice. Ask for understanding & acceptance, flexibility.
- Modify the traditional holiday routine. Keep their regular routine in place as much as possible.
- Recognize your limits. Delegate & manage only what you can, NO guilt. Boundaries are good. Pare down big traditions & expectations.
- Build on past memories & traditions by involving your loved one in manageable tasks by breaking them down into smaller, safe components.
- Use all the senses to enjoy the sights, sounds, & scents of the holiday season. Visit decorated neighborhood light displays, attend familiar church/community services, bake together, enjoy holiday music or videos.
- Schedule events during their best time of day, starting new traditions as needed. For example, do holiday brunch instead of dinner if sundowning is a problem or mornings are better.
- Adapt gift giving as needed; what once would have been enjoyed may not be appropriate now. Ask them to consider intangible gifts such as gift cards, “helper” or “one-on-one time together” coupons, caregiver respite, etc.
- Limit yourself to only what you can handle in shopping/gift giving. Also, include the person with dementia in gift giving, when possible.
- Use nametags, speak names & pronouns together. Assist your loved one in recall with tactful, subtle cues & reminders. Plan how to engage them at gatherings. Keep their dignity intact.
- Realize that perceptions are changed, which could make too much decorating very overwhelming. Blinking lights may be scary, or certain decorations could be interpreted as treats.
- Be gracious and flexible, have a “plan B” quiet spot to go to, a less stimulating alternative activity, or someone who will tend to your loved one apart from the crowd if it becomes “too much.”
With advance planning, you & your loved one can avoid the frenzy of the holidays. By ensuring that everything is in your loved ones best interest, you make the season less stressful & more enjoyable for everyone.
About the Author
Pam Johnson is owner/founder of Friends Place Adult Day Service. With more than 30 years of experience in the field of aging, Pam has extensive knowledge and training in all areas of Alzheimer’s and dementia. For more information on Pam and Friends Place’s Alzheimer’s programs, follow her on Google+ or Like Friends Place on Facebook.