I recently presented “Dashing through Dementia, Enjoying the Holidays with your Memory Impaired Parent.” Here is a snapshot to share if you, or someone you know, will be hosting this holiday season.
- Be honest with family members and friends about your loved one’s disease. Let them know what to expect before they visit.
- Plan visits for early in the day. Being respectful of your loved one’s routine during the holidays may prevent symptoms of sundowning or fatigue.
- Adjust your expectations. You don’t have to decorate like the Griswold’s from the movie Christmas Vacation.
- Take time for you. Attend that holiday party. Drink eggnog and enjoy yourself.
- Have time alone. Stop what you are doing and close your eyes for one minute. Take a few deep breaths in and exhale slowly, picture a place or an event where you were most happy. When you open your eyes you will feel much more relaxed.
- Reminisce about holidays past. Look at old photos, watching the holiday classic movies, listening to songs are a good way to share and create new memories.
- Go ahead and cry. It is okay to feel sad during the holidays. Finding a friend or joining a support group is a good way to meet other caregivers in your community who understands how you feel can be a huge support to you.
- Don’t have your loved one with dementia just watch you prepare for the holidays. Instead, have them participate as much as possible. Decorating the house, wrapping gifts, or making cookies are activities that will help your loved one feel useful. These are great sensory activities too!
Whether you’re hosting or attending a holiday party, help your loved one with dementia feel safe and comfortable by having a trusted friend or family member stay beside him or her to field questions from others as needed.
- Encourage people to say their name and maintain eye contact when conversing with the person who has dementia.
- Make sure your loved one can come and go from the party as needed. Create a quiet space where he or she can rest — or appoint a caring person to drive your loved one home when he/she tires of the festivities.
- Have a family photo album or a favorite magazine for them to look at.
- Choose background music that is familiar to them, music from their era played in a style they resonate with, such as Bing Crosby’s, White Christmas.
- If your loved one needs their food pureed or finely chopped, bring it to the party.
- When talking to your loved one, don’t correct or contradict them. If they’re time confused, don’t try to pull them into the current reality. Simply listen carefully and let them talk. Remember; never argue with someone who has a memory impairment. You will never win!
Appreciate your loved one for the person they are right now. You will have a much happier holiday season.