The holidays are a time for decorations, food and fun but it can also be a challenging time for families living with Alzheimer's.
There are some things you can do to make Christmas less stressful if you are caring for a loved one that has this disease.
The Alzheimer's Association has some tips on how to plan a happy holiday celebration:
- Familiarize others with the situation - It can help to let guests know what to expect before they arrive. Family can help with communication by being patient, not interrupting or correcting, and giving the person time to finish his or her thoughts.
- Adjust expectations - Call a meeting to discuss upcoming plans. The stress of care giving responsibilities layered with holiday traditions can take a toll. Invite family and friends to a face-to-face meeting and make sure everyone understands your care giving situation and has realistic expectations about what you can do. Be honest about any limitations or needs.
- Be good to yourself - Give yourself permission to do only what you can reasonably manage. Let others contribute. Have a potluck dinner or ask them to host at their home. You also may want to consider breaking large gatherings up into smaller visits of two or three people at a time to keep the person with Alzheimer's and yourself from getting overtired.
- Do a variation on a theme - If evening confusion and agitation are a problem, consider changing a holiday dinner into a holiday lunch or brunch. If you do keep the celebration at night, keep the room well-lit and try to avoid any known triggers.
- Involve the person with dementia - Build on past traditions and memories. Focus on activities that are meaningful to the person with dementia. Your family member may find comfort in singing old holiday songs or looking through old photo albums.
- Involve the person in holiday preparation - As the person's abilities allow, invite him or her to help you prepare food, wrap packages, help decorate or set the table. Be careful with decoration choices. Blinking lights may confuse or scare a person with dementia, and decorations that look like food could be mistaken as edible.
- Adapt gift giving - Reduce post-holiday stress. Arrange for respite care so you can enjoy a movie or lunch with a friend. Encourage safe and useful gifts. Diminishing capacity may make some gifts unusable or even dangerous to a person with dementia.
- Put respite care on your wish list - If friends or family ask what you want for a gift, suggest a gift certificate or something that will help you take care of yourself as you care for your loved one. This could be a cleaning or household chore service, an offer to provide respite care, or something that provides you with a bit of rest and relaxation.
- When the person lives in a care facility - A holiday is still a holiday whether it is celebrated at home or at a care facility. Consider joining your loved one in any facility-planned holiday activities. Bring a favorite holiday food to share. Read a favorite holiday story or poem out loud.