As wonderful as the holidays can be, they can also bring some added stress, especially for caregivers. But by making some small, thoughtful changes, you can help ensure both the person living with dementia and the entire family have a wonderful time.
We’ve put together some ideas of how you can balance holiday activities while caring for someone living with dementia – and yourself:
Finding the right balance
- Celebrate holidays that are important to you. Include the person with dementia as much as possible.
- Set your own limits and be clear about them with others. You do not have to live up to the expectations of friends or relatives. Your situation may be different now, so you don’t have to accept every invitation or host every event.
- Involve the person living with dementia in simple holiday preparations, or talk and engage with them as they watch you get things ready.
- Encourage friends and family to visit. Limit the number of visitors at any one time or schedule rest periods for the person with dementia to recuperate from all the over-stimulation.
- Prepare quiet distractions to use, such as a family photo album, if the person with dementia becomes upset or agitated.
- Try to avoid situations that may confuse or frustrate the person with dementia, such as crowds, changes in routine, and strange places. Also try to stay away from loud noises, lighting that is too bright or too dark, and having too much rich food or drinks (especially alcohol).
- Find time for holiday activities you like to do. If you receive invitations to parties that the person with dementia cannot attend, think about going by yourself. Ask a trusted friend or family member to spend time with the person while you’re out.
Preparing for guests
Preparing guests ahead of time will help them know what changes to expect.
- Explain to guests that the person living with dementia may not always remember what is expected and acceptable. Give examples of unusual behaviors that may take place such as difficulty eating, wandering, or hallucinations.
- Offer compassionate ways for the guests to validate and respond to what your person is saying.
- If this is their first visit since the disease has progressed, let them know that your person may not remember their name or relationship – but they can still enjoy their company!
- Suggest activities or topics of conversation that you know your person will be excited and able to participate in.
- Explain that memory loss is the result of the disease and is not intentional.
- Stress that living in the moment together matters more than what the person remembers or says.
Preparing the person living with dementia
Here are some tips to help your person get ready for visitors:
- Arrange a phone call for your person and the visitor. The call gives the visitor an idea of what to expect, and it gives your person an opportunity to become more familiar with them.
- Look for signs of fatigue and make sure your person is getting enough rest in between the hustle and bustle of the holidays.
- Keep your person’s routine as close to normal as possible.
Need some support during the holidays? We’re here to help! Give us a call to speak with one of our dementia experts at 858.492.4400.