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Blog: Hospice Views

Holiday Survival Tips For Families Dealing With Dementia

christmas dementia

Holidays can be a bittersweet time for families dealing with dementia.

At a time when most families are gathering together to celebrate their holiday traditions, families caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's disease or other dementia are struggling with the pressures of caring for someone who is slowly fading away.

Planning ahead can help make this holiday season meaningful for every member of the family.

Adjust expectations.

Speak to family members ahead of time so they are familiar with your loved one's current condition. The goal for everyone should be to maintain an upbeat and positive mood. This is best accomplished by not arguing if a person with dementia makes a statement that is false or confusing. Don't try to force memories they no longer have.

Practice redirection.

When a loved one with dementia is caught in repetitive behaviors or phrases, acting inappropriately, or becoming aggressive or combative, the art of redirection can get things back on track.

The first step in redirection is to determine if there's a reason for the behavior – is your loved one upset or bored or physically uncomfortable? Ask questions to gather more information like:

  • Can I get you something to eat?

  • Do you need to use the bathroom?

  • Is there something I can help you find?

Be upbeat and empathetic. Use bridging statements to help move your loved one with dementia onto a new topic:

  • I'd be upset about that, too. Remember when you told me....

  • I like that story. That reminds me...

  • I know you'd like to go home. Let's have dinner first and then we'll go home after the traffic dies down.

The goal is to acknowledge where your loved one is currently at and then move them toward a new, more positive topic they enjoy like old family stories, pets or music.

Avoid crowds.

Crowds and loud noises can be overwhelming to someone with Alzheimer's or other dementia during the holidays. Even a large group of family members in the home can be overstimulating to a loved one who has become very sensitive to their environment.

Retreat to a quiet room if your loved one is becoming agitated so they can rest and reset.

Maintain routines.

Many people with dementia function better earlier in the day. In addition, some individuals with dementia experience a condition called sundowning where they experience increased confusion and anxiety later in the day. If this is the case with your loved one with dementia, plan holiday activities like gift exchanges and special events earlier in the day and more restful activities in the late afternoon and evening. If you typically have dinner at an early hour, maintain that schedule during the holidays or gather the family for brunch instead.

Involve your loved one.

Invite your loved one with dementia to participate in holiday activities. Play their favorite holiday songs and ask them to help with decorations.

One way for the entire family to connect is through simple crafts and activities. Try this holiday ornament craft with your family.

Be creative in your gift giving.

Don't leave your loved one with dementia out of holiday gift exchanges. Tap into the things that still bring them joy like old movies, familiar music, or a cozy blanket.

Read our five ideas for gifts for a loved one with dementia.

Take a break.

If you typically handle caregiving duties on your own, ask visiting family members to stay with your loved one while you take a much needed break. Even if it's just a brief nap or a walk around the block, you'll handle the holiday stress better if you take care of yourself.

Crossroads Hospice & Palliative Care can help provide support to families who are dealing with dementia this holiday season. Call us at 888-564-3405 for a consultation to see what services your loved one may be eligible to receive.

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