The holidays can be a challenging time of year for families living with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. With some planning, adjusted expectations, and the tips below, your celebrations can still be happy, memorable occasions:
Prepare guests for changes in your loved one.
Take extra care with children who will visit. Explain how Alzheimer’s or dementia affects Grandma or Grandpa, and prepare them for behavior they might not expect or understand.
Be good to yourself. Consider inviting just a few guests for a simple meal. Let others contribute, and 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 overly tired.
Maintain a normal routine. Sticking to the person’s normal routine will help keep the holidays from becoming disruptive or confusing. Plan time for breaks and plenty of rest.
Build on past traditions and memories. Focus on activities that are meaningful to the person with dementia. They may find comfort in singing old holiday songs or looking through old photo albums.
Involve the person in holiday preparation. As their abilities allow, invite them to help prepare food, 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.
Schedule quiet time.
Allow time to pause, away from crowds and noise. Your loved one will need it, and so will you.
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. Or consider respite care or day stay for your loved one to allow you time to attend a holiday party, get some shopping done, or just to relax during this stressful time of year. Taking care of your own physical and mental health makes you a better caregiver!