TOLEDO — While holidays can be a joyous time for many families, they can be especially challenging for families affected by Alzheimer’s or other dementia. Caregivers may become overwhelmed trying to maintain traditions while also providing care.
Pamela Myers, program director for the Alzheimer’s Association Northwest Ohio Chapter, said caregivers and families should endeavor to create new traditions and find new ways for their family members to help make this season satisfying for all.
“Depending on how your loved one copes with the noise and extra commotion that comes with holiday time, you may have to change things up a bit and make things easier for everyone in the family, “ Myers said.
To help families navigate challenges and provide a meaningful and enjoyable holiday season, the Alzheimer’s Association recommends the following tips to make the holidays enjoyable and safe for all:
Talk to Your Family: As caregivers consider options for the holiday, Myers suggests that they arrange a group discussion via telephone, video call or email for family and friends to discuss holiday celebrations in advance. Everyone needs to understand your caregiving situation, the safety precautions you’re taking to help keep your loved one healthy and to set realistic expectations about what you can and cannot do.
Modify and Adjust: No one should expect you to maintain every holiday tradition or event. Do what is manageable and safe. Schedule your own “holiday parade” and ask family members and friends to drive by with homemade signs or other festive decorations. Take a ride to go see holiday lights.
Involve the Person Living with Dementia: Ask him or her to help you prepare food, wrap packages, help decorate or set the table. Myers said maintaining their normal routine as much as possible so holiday preparations don’t become disruptive or confusing. Also consider decorations. Blinking lights may confuse those with dementia.
Use Technology to Your Advantage: Record and send a holiday video greeting to family and friends. Schedule a time for several households to watch a favorite movie and share comments over the phone. If not gathering in person, determine who is best to coordinate and manage needed technology.
Adapt Gift Giving: Provide family and friends with suggestions for useful and enjoyable gifts for your loved one living with Alzheimer’s. This may be comfortable, easy-to-remove clothing; favorite music, or favorite treats. Involve your loved one depending on their abilities, such as having them package baked goods in tins or boxes, or wrap gifts you purchased for them to give.
The Alzheimer’s Association Helpline is available 24/7 at 800-272-3900. For a complete list of tips and suggestions, visit the special website resource section with information about the holidays, Alzheimer’s and COVID-19 at www.alz.org/help-support/resources/holidays.