For many, the holiday season is a time for family celebrations and making cherished memories. But for families coping with Alzheimer’s disease, it can be a bittersweet and emotionally-charged time because there’s a struggle to handle the additional stress.
Alexander Graham Bell once said, “Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.” This is as true in holiday planning as it is in business. Here are some tips for how to plan a successful holiday gathering by properly preparing.
Prepare Your Loved One
The challenge: For someone living with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias, any change in the routine can cause added confusion and agitation.
- The solution: Talking about the event in advance can help to minimize this. Involve your loved one in the holiday event decorating by doing crafts. Look through photos of the people who will be attending. Play holiday music that your loved one enjoys. Ensure that your loved one’s schedule is maintained as much as possible and that they have a quiet place where you can take them if the event gets overwhelming.
Prepare Your Fa
- The challenge: If it’s been awhile since your family gathered together, the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease can be hard to accept and understand.
- The solution: Prepare visiting guests in advance by giving them a clear picture of how your loved one is affected by the disease. Remind them that they shouldn’t be offended if their loved doesn’t remember them – they still appreciate their presence around the holidays. Encourage them to share stories with your loved one by speaking slowly and giving your loved one time to engage if they’re having trouble communicating. If they wish to bring your loved one a gift, practical items are usually best.
Sometimes those living with Alzheimer’s can get confused about the stories they are telling or the requests they make. Don’t argue with them. Agree and redirect. For example, many people with dementia will ask to go home – even if they’re already in the place they’ve been living for 50 years. Instead of correcting them, you can tell them that you’ll be going home later when traffic improves. Just validating their request is often enough to relieve their agitation.
- The challenge: If you’re the caregiver for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease, it’s possible that your daily routine has you experiencing some symptoms of caregiver burnout. The added stress of the holiday season could increase your symptoms of anxiety, depression or sadness.
- The solution: Give yourself permission to scale back on holiday traditions in order to have less stress on you and your loved one with Alzheimer’s. Ask family and friends to help with errands or arrange for them to stay with your loved one so you can have a break. The Alzheimer’s Association has a 24-Hour Helpline at 1-800-272-3900, which can connect you with support groups in your area and provide advice if you’re feeling overwhelmed. Crossroads Hospice is also available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-888-564-3405 to help families who qualify for hospice care.
Alzheimer’s disease is a heartbreaking diagnosis. You and your family can still make the most of holiday celebrations if you keep these tips in mind.
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