The days are getting shorter and the nights are getting colder, meaning the countdown to Christmas has begun.
The holidays are a time when friends and family come together to celebrate. However, for families living with Alzheimer’s and other Dementias, the holidays can be challenging. With some planning and managed expectations, your holiday celebrations can still be happy, memorable occasions.
We have put together 5 ways to make holidays special for families living with Alzheimer’s or Dementia.
5 Ways to Make Holidays Special for Families living with Alzheimer’s or Dementia
1. Manage Expectations
It is important for everyone who will be gathering for the holidays to understand that your loved one has Alzheimer’s. Perhaps it would be a good time to educate your family and friends about Alzheimer’s. Be completely honest about the nature of the disease and its progressive effects. This will help them know what to expect.
You can also take this opportunity to ask for help, let them know if you will need any help with care giving activities or meal prep, be specific with your requests.
Make life easier by simplifying your family gatherings. Consider hosting a pot luck dinner, while keeping the guest list and visits shorter so as not to be too overwhelming. If your family gatherings involve a large group of people, consider having a quiet room where your loved one can go to rest or to visit with people only one or two at a time.
Instead of elaborate decorations, choose only a few select items. Just remember it is all about the quality of time spent with loved ones. Focus more on the experience as opposed to the details.
3. Time It Right
Many people with dementia are often better able to cope earlier in the day. For this reason, it may be best to plan a gathering at an earlier time than usual.
Consider hosting a holiday brunch or lunch, this will allow for the most quality of time spent together. If the gathering must happen in the evening, keep the space full of light and allow for your loved one to rest if he or she is showing signs of fatigue.
When giving gifts to someone with Alzheimer’s and other dementias, you should keep gifts simple, useful and practical. Consider the symptoms your loved one is experiencing, as well as their personal safety.
Great gift ideas might include comfortable clothes, a cozy blanket, an iPod loaded with their favourite music, a digital picture frame pre-loaded with images, or even a simple jigsaw puzzle. For more great gift ideas, check out this blog. You may want to prepare a list of gift ideas for family and friends as well.
5. Include Your Loved One
Focus on your loved one’s remaining abilities by giving them tasks that allow them to contribute to the festivities such as helping prepare food, setting the table, or helping decorate.
Reminisce together. Sharing memories from the past can not only bring family members closer together, it can also help spark you loved one’s long-term memory. Surround your loved one with sights and sounds that help trigger memories such as photographs, seasonal music, or even seasonal foods and beverages.
Another way to include your loved one is to prepare. One good way to do this is to show your loved one photographs of your expected guests, explaining who they are before they arrive.
Remember, the holidays can be difficult not only for you, but also for your loved one with Alzheimer’s. Taking the time to plan with empathy and accommodation will make the holidays more enjoyable for both of you.
Merry Christmas, everyone!
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