Holidays are a time to reconnect, a time for reaching out to friends and loved ones living far away, and a time for strengthening bonds with those nearby. For your loved one living with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, the holidays can be an especially magical time, with smells, tastes, and experiences sometimes unlocking rich, forgotten memories.
Before you get started with the holiday celebrations, however, the following tips will help you make this time safer and more enjoyable for everyone involved.
Start this year’s holiday celebrations fresh with an open heart. Start by taking a moment to reflect on the past year and everything that has occurred. Try to forgive yourself and say goodbye to any lingering regret or guilt over care decisions you have made for your loved one. Choosing to move your loved one into Memory Care, hiring an outside caregiver, or even just needing occasional respite from the work you do isn’t a sign of failure on your part, it’s a sign of love. You want your loved one to get the best care possible and often times that requires extra help.
While you don’t want to skimp on any of the traditions or decorations that have made your yearly celebrations shine, people living with dementia have different sensitivities that you need to look out for. Depending on where they are on their dementia journey, things like blinking lights and sudden loud noises – such as from electronic devices that play holiday tunes – can cause confusion and fear, leading to discomfort and even outbursts. It’s also a good idea to be aware of physical dangers, such as burning candles or fragile decorations, replacing them with safer, sturdier options. Your loved one living with dementia may not observe the same level of caution, or even awareness, as you would expect of other adults.
It’s normal to want to pack as much as you can into your holiday celebrations, especially when family is visiting from out of town. You may have musical performances you would like everyone to see, holiday light tours, and community festivities, but when spending time with someone living with dementia, all these activities may not be practical. Your loved one may not have the attention span necessary to sit still through a two hour performance or may become overwhelmed and irritable in confined spaces like a car or crowded community center. Focus more on small group activities, like decorating cookies, making simple decorations, or looking through photo albums.
Take The Party to Them
If your loved one is living in a Memory Care community, it may be better to hold your celebrations and holiday events in their apartment or a community room. Changes in environment can be stressful for people living with a memory loss illness, so they may find the most enjoyment in being surrounded by loved ones while in familiar surroundings. And because large groups of people can also be stressful for your loved one, you might want to break into separate groups to visit on different days. This means more days that your loved one will receive visitors, making the season feel even more magical.
For tips and ideas on celebrating the holidays and more with your loved one living with dementia, visit the Artis Senior Living blog.