Some of the best memories of a lifetime can happen around Christmas and the New Year. But when your loved one has either lost most those memories or is barely grasping onto them, the holiday season can be tough to celebrate. Alzheimer’s or Dementia will rob someone of not only their favorite holiday traditions but also give them added stress. The caretaker’s guide provides several strategies to keep in mind to keep the holiday a peaceful time.
1. Adjust to the new normal.
Have a conversation with the entire family about what to expect during the festivities, and how to reduce stressors for the loved one. Create a game plan where each person can help with the caretaker duties.
Familiarize everyone with the current severity of the condition, and help them identify problems or approaching behavior changes. Teach them how to communicate with their loved one in a way that won’t make them feel uncomfortable, like not constantly asking “don’t you remember?” Choose relaxing activities, like walks, quiet conversation or looking at family photo albums.
2. Start the day early, and finish early.
Opt to have an early lunch rather than a late dinner. Dementia fatigue is a problem for Alzheimer’s patients, and if you wait to celebrate the festivities until the evening, then they will struggle to keep up with conversations or even stay awake. If you want to celebrate the new year with your loved one, use an early countdown option and ring in the new year right when it gets dark.
3. Avoid overstimulation.
The holidays are exhausting. Try to limit travel and activities for your loved one. Ask the family to be intentionally quieter this year to keep your loved one from stressing about noise. Try to maintain the same or similar routine even if it is Christmas or New Year’s Eve. It might be best to make the visits with family and friends short and sweet. Also, Consider cutting down on the amount of Christmas decorations.
4. Choose the right gifts.
Everyone might be wondering what to buy someone with Alzheimer’s. The best gifts depend on the stage of the disease.
In the early stages, try enhancing their independence by giving them tickets to an event or activity they enjoy doing. Also provide them with tools that help with everyday tasks, like nightlights that come on automatically when it’s dark.
As the disease progresses, find gifts that stimulate their senses like lotion, soft blankets or fuzzy no-slip socks. Give them music they will enjoy or audiobooks.
Regardless of the stage, little mementos are a great gift. Provide them with little photos they can keep in their room or albums they can browse in their free time.
A caretaker shouldn’t neglect their own celebrations and happiness during the season. It’s easy to lose yourself in your new role. However, you should make extra efforts to take time off and enjoy the festivities. With the help of friends and family, you should have the chance to eat a hot meal, laugh and take a little post-meal nap.
The season might be the best time to start hospice services. The extra help could be the best gift you give your family, yourself and your loved one. If it is time to start the conversation about hospice care, then give us a call at McCortney Home Hospice at (405) 360-2400 for Norman or (580) 332-6900 for our Ada location.