As joyful as we want the holidays to be here in San Diego, planning for including a senior loved one suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease can get tricky. Patients can react unpredictably if their day-to-day schedule changes too much. Family members also find it embarrassing when a loved one acts out in a way that makes others uncomfortable.
A few helpful tips can up the odds of a successful holiday gathering when your loved one has dementia or Alzheimer’s:
- Scale back.
You don’t have to accept every Christmas or Hanukkah invitation that comes your way, and you don’t have to feel bad about refusing to participate in once-cherished holiday activities that now overwhelm your loved one. For example, the bright lights and chaos of those popular Christmas light neighborhood displays can be eschewed. You also don’t need to attend every single holiday symphony performance, family gathering or neighborhood party. Pick and choose which events would be the least demanding for your loved one, and make the most of those moments, guilt-free.
- Make sure your family/friends know what to expect.
Experts recommend that before any visits with extended friends or family members, hosts should be made aware of what to expect from your loved one with dementia or Alzheimer’s. The last thing you want is a shocked, surprised, or uncomfortable reaction. Therefore, a short email or a note detailing the common occurrences makes sense. If your loved one needs a quiet room to rest in during part of Christmas dinner, or perhaps doesn’t respond to his or his name but rather to a gentle touch, your hosts and extended family/friends need to know all of this before you visit.
- Do preliminary planning before traveling.
You don’t want to arrive at the airport and find out too late that there are no wheelchairs available. You also don’t want to book a hotel stay at a venue that is also hosting a loud, raucous all-night Christmas Eve party next to your room. If your loved one requires a little extra special handling, by all means let as many service workers know about it beforehand. You may even want to consider purchasing a Medic Alert® bracelet for your loved one before traveling. Also, it is crowded and stressful for your loved one if you schedule your departures/arrivals a few days before and after the peak travel days of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
- Have your loved ones help participate.
Even with the challenges dementia and Alzheimer’s create, your elderly companion still wants to actively be doing something productive this holiday season. Include him or her in your festive preparations. Any small, fun task will do, such as adding red and green sprinkles to just-baked cookies, placing stamps on greeting cards to be mailed, putting up a few easy Christmas ornaments or decorations, or affixing adhesive bows to wrapped gifts.
- Ask family and friends for their assistance.
Don’t be a martyr and take on all the holiday entertaining alone. You never need to feel guilty about letting others contribute their time and energy towards a holiday gathering; in fact, those close to your loved one are probably more than happy to assist you. You can have your extended family members provide potluck items for the big Christmas meal, or you can even order a ready-made ham dinner at your local grocery store. You can also have close family members take turns interacting with your loved one, helping to engage him or her in the conversations, mobility and eating.
- Maintain a level of familiarity.
Too much change in a routine can overwhelm those with Alzheimer’s or dementia, so try to maintain as much familiarity as possible when enjoying the holidays. Consider hosting a small holiday get-together at your loved one’s home, instead of traveling to an unfamiliar setting. Also, when considering a Christmas meal, try utilizing your companion’s usual go-to foods as much as possible. However, your loved may actually enjoy experiencing cherished holiday decorations, favorite Christmas movies (such as a Miracle on 34th Street) beloved desserts, and classic holiday songs that can all possibly trigger warm, beloved memories of the season.
Love 2 Live Can Make the Holidays merrier for those with Alzheimer’s and Dementia
If your loved one has Alzheimer’s or dementia in San Diego, and you need some help caring for them this holiday season, don’t hesitate to call Love 2 Live Care Services at 619-291-4663. We’re happy to provide caregiver services for as little as eight hours per week, so that your Christmas or Hanukkah celebrations can run more smoothly. Follow us on Facebook and sign up for our email newsletter to stay current on senior care options and ideas in San Diego. You can even schedule a free, no-obligation in-home assessment. We wish you the most joyful of holidays!