October 23rd, 2020

Dementia and the holiday season

By Submitted Article on December 7, 2019.

Submitted by the Alzheimer Society

Tis the season! A time when family and friends often come together for positive events and activities. Some of us find the holidays stressful, and this time of year may be more so if you are a caregiver or a person living with dementia. Unfamiliar places, large groups of people, noise and a hectic pace can create stress and anxiety.

Making a few adjustments may keep the season positive and relaxing, celebrating people and relationships. It is a good idea to have realistic expectations. Modifying your plans can help decrease everyone’s stress.

Here are some tips which may minimize stress and increase everyone’s enjoyment:

– If necessary, adjust visitor traffic. >Arrange for a few family members to drop in on different days. A large group at one time may be overwhelming.

– Tell guests ahead of time what activities you have planned such as singing, or suggest something they might bring, such as a photo album to reminisce about seasons past.

– Make time for yourself. >Ask a family member or friend to give you a break so that you can enjoy a holiday outing without caregiving responsibilities.

– Provide a quiet place. >If you are having guests over, provide a quiet place for the person with dementia to have time alone or to visit with one person at a time if this is their preference.

– Participate in the occasions and traditions that are most important to you and your family.

– Keep celebrations short. At longer gatherings, consider bringing the person with dementia for the most meaningful part of the event.

– Plan smaller get-togethers. This will minimize stress and feelings of being overwhelmed, especially if the person you’re caring for is in the later stages of dementia.

– Involve the person with dementia in preparations, especially with tasks they can still do or enjoy, like stirring batter, making cards or wrapping gifts.

– Prepare the person’s favourite meal, and keep in mind that too much rich food can create discomfort for all of us.

– Buy a thoughtful gift for the person and don’t be surprised if they’re less than enthusiastic.

– The holidays can bring feelings of joy or sadness. If a celebration reminds the person with dementia of events from the past, he or she may speak of people and things from that era. Rather than trying to reorient the person to the present, talk about the past event and memories of similar occasions. Changing abilities do not alter the person with dementia’s place in the family or the need to be included at special events.

– Remember to make time for yourself, and don’t overdo it. It may be tempting to go all out or try to keep traditions from previous years going, but it’s important to pace yourself and adjust as needed.

Above all be kind to yourself and the person with dementia. Remember, you’re not alone. >If you need to talk to someone who understands the stress you’re feeling, contact the Alzheimer Society of Alberta and NWT Lethbridge at 403-329-3766 or http://www.alzheimer.ab.ca.

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