The Wesbury Blog

How to Handle the Holidays When a Loved One Has Alzheimer’s or Dementia

While Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, the hustle and bustle of the holiday season can create some anxiety for loved ones with Alzheimer’s or dementia. It also adds stress to their caregivers who may be trying to manage the Christmas shopping, baking, decorating, parties and family functions on top of their loved ones care needs and appointments.  During “Bridges” November Support Group meeting, Danielle Schmidt, with Hospice of Crawford County presented some ideas listed below on how to prepare your friends, family, loved one, and, (Yes) Yourself, this holiday season when a loved one has Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Prepare Your Friends and Family:

  • Make sure others know your loved one is going through memory changes and you are working with a disease. They may not have seen the changes, or know about the diagnosis.
  • Prepare them for the memory loss, and that it is not intentional forgetfulness. Encourage visitors to be patient with repeated questions, and not to use the phrase; “Do you remember”, as it can cause anxiety or panic in your loved one who may not remember a name or face of someone they haven’t seen in a while.
  • Encourage family and friends to visit but limit the number of people visiting at a time. Break in to smaller groups so it is not overwhelming.

Prepare Your Loved One:

  • Holidays are the best time to reminisce and go down memory lane with them. Look at photo albums and share with them who will be coming to visit beforehand.
  • If they cannot get out to visit family or friends – Skype or FaceTime with them instead.
  • Keep their daily routine the same as possible during the holiday season, for example, meal or nap times.
  • If they “sundown” or don’t do well in the evening, instead of having a dinner party – meet earlier with friends or family for lunch.
  • Take everything in steps and break it down into smaller sections to complete, whether it is decorating, baking cookies, mailing cards or wrapping Christmas presents. For example, if they can’t decide what to put on the tree, hand them the ornaments.
  • If over stimulated, create a side activity or safe space for a loved one to get away during the party to relax.

Prepare for You, the Caregiver:

  • It’s okay to say, “I can’t do it all”. Take care of yourself. Rest and relax.
  • Set your own limits and pick the things that are the most important.
  • If you want to go to a friend’s Christmas party but you’re worried about over stimulating your loved one -ask family to stay with them while you’re gone so you know your loved one is safe.
  • Know it is okay to ask for help – either getting groceries, wrapping presents, or finishing the Christmas shopping. If you can’t make the whole Christmas dinner, cook the meat and potatoes and have family and friends bring a side dish.

If you enjoyed reading these suggestions, please join us for “Bridges” a free monthly education and support opportunity for caregivers. Each month you will explore a topic, learn effective ways to respond to changes, share concerns and ideas and feel that you are not alone.

When: Every 3rd Wednesday of the Month from 2:30PM-4PM

Where: Wesbury, Cribbs Residential Center, 31 N. Park Ave, Meadville, PA 16335

 A collaboration of Wesbury and Meadville Medical Center

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