Q: Dear Regina, I have been caring for my aunt with Alzheimer for two years. She has declined a lot this year. All my family comes to my home for holidays. I do what I have to. I am a little anxious about it this year. Are there ideas to help make things easier for my aunt?
A: Alz.org has great information and we are sharing this: “The holidays are just around the corner. Families are gathering for Christmas, sharing laughter and happy memories. But for families coping with Alzheimer’s, the holidays can be bittersweet times, filled with stress and frustration. Festivities can agitate, confuse, and over stimulate persons with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Meanwhile, caregivers can feel anxious, frustrated, and lonely – leading to stress and depression. The Alzheimer’s Association – Florida Gulf Coast Chapter- has developed 10 Holiday Survival Tips for families coping with Alzheimer’s”. We at AWI have shared a few listed below.
Tip 1 – Planning can avoid holiday stress
Individuals who experience the most difficulty with the holiday season are those who have given little thought to the challenges they will encounter. Consider ahead of time what may be expected of you, both socially and emotionally.
Discuss holiday celebrations with relatives and close friends in advance.
Plan to maintain a regular routine while trying to provide a pleasant, meaningful and calm holiday event.
Celebrate early in the day or have a noon meal rather than a late dinner.
Tip 2 – Take care of yourself (caregiver)
Remember, the holidays are opportunities to share time with people you love. Try to make these celebrations easy on yourself and with the person with Alzheimer’s disease so that you may concentrate on enjoying your time together.
Set limits by telling family and friends that you intend to control stress this holiday season.
Maintain a positive mental attitude.
Ask for assistance for you and your loved one.
Tip 3 – Prepare the person with Alzheimer’s for the family gathering
Preparing your loved one for the upcoming holiday events can allow both of you to enjoy the warmth of the season.
Talk about and show photos of family members and friends who will be visiting.
Have a “quiet” room in case things get too hectic.
Play familiar music and serve favorite traditional holiday foods.
Schedule naps, especially if the person usually takes naps.
Schedule family and friends visit times if possible
Tip 4 – Prepare family members and friends
Preparing families and friends with an honest appraisal of the person’s condition can help avoid uncomfortable or harmful situations.
Familiarize family members and friends with behaviours and condition changes.
Recommend practical and useful gifts.
Remind family and friends the best way to communicate with a person with dementia.
Tip 5 – Involve everyone when selecting activities
Involve everyone in holiday activities including the person with dementia.
Consider taking walks, icing cookies, telling stories, doing chores, making a memory book or family tree, or keeping a journal.
To encourage conversation, place magazines, scrapbooks, or photo albums in reach; play music to prompt dancing or other kinds of exercise.
Encourage young family members to participate in simple and familiar activities with the person.
Tip 6 – Communicate with success
Alzheimer’s can diminish a person’s ability to communicate. These tips may help you understand each other.
Be calm and supportive if the person has trouble communicating.
Speak slowly with a relaxed tone.
Avoid criticism. For example, when someone forgets a recent conversation, avoid saying, “Don’t you remember?”
Address the person by name.
Be patient, flexible, and do not argue with the person with Alzheimer’s
Tip 7 — Smart gift giving
Encourage family and friends to give useful, practical gifts for the person such as identification bracelet. Other gifts may include comfortable easy-to-remove clothing, audiotapes of favourite music, videos, and photo albums.
Advise others not to give gifts such as dangerous tools or instruments, utensils, challenging board games, complicated electronic equipment, or pets.
If possible, involve the person in giving gifts. For example, someone who once enjoyed cooking may enjoy baking cookies, or buy the gift and allow the person to wrap it.
Tip 8 – Safe environment in the home
Persons with dementia may experience changes in judgment. This behavior may lead to confusion, frustration, or wandering. Consider these tips to reduce the risk of injury and situations that could be confusing to someone with dementia.
Assign a “buddy” to watch out for the person to ensure their comfort.
Consider seating options so the person with Alzheimer’s can best focus on conversation and be least distracted.
Limit access to places where injuries occur, such as a kitchen or stairwell. Check temperature of water and food.
Create even level of lighting; avoid blinking lights.
Keep decorations simple; avoid using candies, artificial fruits/vegetables, or other edibles as decorations.
Tip 9 — Travel wisely
The following suggestions may ensure a positive travelling experience:
Never leave the person alone.
Use familiar modes of transportation and avoid peak travel times.
Keep plans simple and maintain daily routines as much as possible.
Allow extra time to avoid the stress of rushing.
Tip 10 – Reliable sources of support
Families can call the SLADA at 758-486-4509 or the USA 24-hour Helpline at 1-800-772-8672 to answer questions about warning signs and to assist persons with dementia and caregivers. The Helpline will be open all Christmas day and News Year’s day, as well as year round.”
Happy Holidays ☺
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