The holidays offer unique challenges to family care partners as well as the person with Alzheimer’s.
Traditions once shared should be reevaluated and adjustments made if necessary. For instance if Dad always led the tree cutting to the local national forest, maybe this year an adult child could do the cutting after Dad picks out the perfect tree. If your family always attended a worship service together, maybe the local priest or Rabbi would make a visit to your home.
You also may want to consider the size of holiday parties and meals. Gatherings of family and friends can be loud, happy occasions but can increase anxiety and confusion for someone with Alzheimer’s. Consider smaller groups or dedicate a place in the house where a family member can sit quietly with the person with Alzheimer’s if things get overwhelming. Use music as a way to engage the family while including the person who has Alzheimer’s disease. Seasonal music and songs are often remembered long after more recent memories are gone.
Reducing stress for the care partner should be a focus for family and friends as well. Find ways to help by offering to shop, bake, decorate and gift wrap. Offer a respite from caregiving with coupons for a night out, movie tickets or a coffee break with care offered for the person with Alzheimer’s.
Making small changes to your holiday tradition can go a long way toward creating a calmer, more relaxed season for everyone.
Tips for caregivers:
• Have everyone wear festive name badges so the person with memory issues isn’t embarrassed at not remembering the names of family members or old friends
• Use gift bags instead of wrapping paper to involve the person with dementia and save time
• Buy fresh bakery items or ready-to-bake dough instead of spending hours in the kitchen
• Ask neighbors or friends to help with outdoor decorations
• Use Elfster.com or simply draw names for gift giving to reduce the number and cost of gifts
• Plan dinner and parties for earlier in the day before sundowning occurs
• Identify another family member or friend to assist the person with the disease for signs of stress, especially if the primary caregiver is busy cooking or hosting the party
• Find a fun stamp to use for signing holiday cards or scan a signature from a past document and have cards pre printed
• Fill an iPod with favorite tunes and make it available when things get overwhelming or you recognize signs of stress in a loved one with dementia
– Sharon Stokes, Alzheimer’s Association Early Stage Services Coordinator