Holiday Tips for Caregivers of Seniors with Alzheimer’s or Dementia
Holidays can be an exciting time. For those with a family member with dementia the holidays can be daunting and full of emotion. For our loved ones, the hustle and bustle of the season along with the long-term memories so closely tied to the holidays can lead to anxiety and confusion. No worry, there is help for you and your family with the following tips for caregivers to help make the holiday season more enjoyable for everyone.
Maintain Family Traditions & Include Them
Maintaining family traditions helps reinforce a sense of identity and connection to family for a person with Alzheimer’s. Start the process about month or more before the holiday by making a list of family traditions. Decide ahead of time which ones are most important to you and your family and what you are able to modify for your loved one. For instance, maybe he/she cannot help with outdoor lights, but can help with card signing and tree decorating. Involve your loved one as much as possible with safe and meaningful tasks. Historically, if grandma has been a part of the planning and implementing, it is important that she still plays a vital role and these traditions play a vital role to them. Some tasks can include making cards, filling stockings, indoor décor, assist in meal planning and guest lists, and wrapping gifts.
Plan Ahead of Time
Prepare and plan as much as you can, so you don’t try to accomplish too much with not enough time. When you are overwhelmed, you will lose your patience easier and this anxiety will be felt by your loved one. Items to consider include filling all their medications, educating guests in advance about changes since they last saw your loved one, and enlisting help from your support system.
Make Adjustments to the Celebration Space
It is important to evaluate the environment where you will be celebrating. Identify a place for quiet and rest, note barriers to safety, and note background noise to eliminate such as video games, children's toys, and TV as these can be over stimulating.
Take Care of Yourself & Get Help
Finally, during this hectic and stressful time, you should not forget to take care of yourself. Solutions include asking for help from those who are close to you. Senior living communities offer support groups and educational series for caregivers. At Meridian Senior Living communities these are our Caregiver Cafés and monthly Mini Dementia Workshops. Finally give yourself a much-deserved break from daily tasks by taking advantage of adult day care or senior living respite programs in which your loved one can stay as a guest and enjoy the amenities at a community from 14 to 30 days.
Center Yourself and Give Yourself Grace
You can reach a breaking point. It happens. Life is frustrating for most people during the holidays and, as a caregiver, it may be more so. When it gets to be too much, it’s important to step away from the situation (with your loved one in a safe environment, of course), take a deep breath and center yourself. Try to remember and understand what your loved one is going through, tell yourself you are doing the best you can do, and when you are ready, take another deep breath and go back into the situation.
Time for Connection
While the holiday season brings its stresses, especially when someone has Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, remember the most important outcome is connecting with and devoting time to your family and loved ones. Using these holiday tips and practicing some flexibility and patience, you can focus on enjoying your traditions and this special time with your family.