The holidays are a time of rejoicing and blessing. Unfortunately, this time of year can also be stressful for some. And for those with Alzheimer's disease or related dementia, it can be a very confusing season.
Alzheimer’s and the holidays: 7 tips for coping
Different surroundings can be uncomfortable for anyone, especially someone with Alzheimer’s disease. As much as possible, seek the familiar. The more you follow past holiday routines, the more comfortable a person with Alzheimer’s will be.
The extra hustle and bustle can cause stress for people with memory loss. These tips can make holiday gatherings less overwhelming and more joyful for you and your loved one.
- Keep your loved one’s schedule as close to normal as possible. Routines, predictability and structure are important. Knowing that things will be busier than normal during holidays, plan ahead.
- Manage your own expectations. Adjust your expectations for how interactions will go. If conflict arises, ask yourself, “Is this a big deal?” Go with the flow.
- Pay close attention to your loved one. Monitor their reactions and limit timeframes of gatherings based on their responses. If a gathering is going well, do not feel the need to cut the time short.
- Think about time of day. Earlier in the day, people tend to function better because they are less fatigued. Avoid evenings for holiday events.
- Educate other guests to be sensitive to the disease. Help guests understand ahead of time that they may see or hear things they didn’t anticipate. Remind them not to take things personally. Behaviors are a result of the disease process and rarely a reflection of anything someone has done.
- Be thoughtful and careful with the gifts you choose. Items such as scrapbooks, a favorite movie or comfy clothing make great gifts. Stay away from electronics, appliances, or anything that may not be used safely.
- Don't be too hard on yourself. As a caregiver or loved one of a person with Alzheimer's, you will want to set aside time for yourself, even if it's just walking around the block, reading your favorite book or spending a few minutes doing an activity you enjoy.
When speaking to people with Alzheimer’s disease, introduce yourself every time you talk to them. Speak clearly and concisely. Educate your holiday guests to do the same.