Updated: Dec 20, 2018
The holidays can be enjoyable and happy occasions. For families living with Alzheimer’s or other dementia, the holidays may have extra challenges. These tips from the Alzheimer’s Association can help such families to still enjoy their holidays:
Communicate with your loved one who has dementiaFor some with dementia, they withdraw and are uncomfortable socializing whereas others enjoy socializing just as much as before. The key is to communicate with your loved one to find out what they are comfortable with. Plan the holiday together by choosing activities that bring happiness and letting go of those that are overwhelming and stressful.
Communicate with your other family membersLet your guests know what to expect before they arrive. If your loved one’s Alzheimer’s is in late progression, there may be significant changes to his behavior and memories since the last time an out-of-town relative or friend has visited. These changes can be difficult to accept. You may find it helpful to share these changes with your guests before they arrive. Remind them that your loved one may have trouble remembering or thinking clearly and his behavior may be erratic. Reassure your guests that even if the individual does not remember or recognize them, he is happy to have them there. With these mental preparations, it can pave the way for a smooth holiday.
Be reasonable and adjust expectations
The stress of caregiving might make it difficult to uphold your normal holiday traditions. Be reasonable with yourself and only do what you can reasonably manage. If you normally host the holidays, consider asking someone else to host or asking others to contribute to the meal and planning. By letting others help you, you can alleviate some of the pressures of holiday planning. You should also be honest with your family and friends about what you can and cannot do. No one should expect you to maintain every holiday tradition or event.
Involve the person with dementia
Focus on activities that are meaningful to the person with dementia, such as singing old holiday songs, looking through photo albums, or watching favorite holiday movies. As his abilities allow, involve the person with dementia in the preparation of the celebration – wrapping gifts, cooking food, or decorating the home. Try to keep a somewhat normal routine so that the holidays are not disruptive or confusing. Plan for breaks and rest.
Adapt gift-givingAs a person’s mental capacities diminish with dementia, some gifts may not be usable or safe. If someone asks for gift ideas for your loved one with dementia, you might suggest comfortable clothing, favorite foods, or photo albums.
These tips can help ensure that everyone in the family can have a memorable and happy holiday celebration.