While the holidays are known for delivering happiness and joy to people across the world, it can often bring sadness, disappointment and nostalgia for many. Such is the holidays for those who have a family member living with Alzheimer's. According to the National Institute on Aging, Alzheimer’s affects over 5 million Americans and someone develops this degenerative disease every 60 seconds.
Caregivers to those with Alzheimer's may feel overwhelmed with their tasks during the holiday season. Between trying to maintain traditions and balancing caregiving responsibilities, there's not much time left to enjoy the holidays. Let's explore how to make the holidays special.
Caregiving Before the Holidays:
If there is a significant change in your loved one's mental cognition, prepare friends and family ahead of time. Remember, those who do not see them day-to-day may be shocked or even uncomfortable by their behavior. Visitors may have preconceived ideas or even memories from experiences that are setting their expectations for this interaction.
Mitigate these feelings by suggesting ways to interact with their loved one. We've highlighted some ways to communicate with those who have Alzheimer's in previous blogs. They include:
- Being Patient
- Focusing on Feelings, Not Facts
- Not Arguing
- Being a Good Listener
- Avoid Criticizing
Another suggestion is for visitors to wear nametags. This small gesture will help your loved one better understand who is visiting. If motor skills are difficult, encourage visitors to put their holiday gifts in bags, which are easier on your senior to unwrap.
Caregiving During the Holidays:
It's helpful to recruit other's to help with your senior by monitoring the situation. Extra sets of hands and eyes to watch for troubling behaviors such as overstimulation, wandering and anxiety. If you are having a gathering, large groups of people can be intimidating for your loved one, so it's important that you (or ideally everyone) is mindful of this. Designate a quiet room for them to retreat to, or to visit with one to two people to help mitigate this stress.
It's also good to keep things as normal as possible like keeping standard walkways clear in the house, playing their favorite CD or DVD and maintaining regular, daily routines. Plan on having a Christmas lunch instead of dinner if your senior suffers from Sundowner’s Syndrome.
Also, and most importantly, take a moment to relax. This is also your time too, and you deserve to bask in the magic that is the holiday season. Don’t over-commit yourself to doing too much, and don’t be afraid to ask for help caring for your loved one with Alzheimer’s.
It may not be possible to hold on to old traditions, but that doesn't mean you can't make new ones! It's important to hold those memories close while creating new ones in the process.