Every holiday season, seniors suffering with dementia and Alzheimer’s want to be involved in the festivities of the holidays. It is a busy time of year involving an intense schedule of activities and all of the overwhelming stress it can bring. There are often changes in their familiar routine, conversing with family members, and the traditions each family celebrates. These stresses and situations can be triggers for seniors with dementia. The holidays can also bring many caregivers a mixture of emotions. Despite the difficulties the holiday season can bring, it still can be an enjoyable time for everyone, especially seniors with these diseases.
Find out how to make holiday activities dementia-friendly, help family members know what to expect, keep seniors feeling calm and secure, and more with these tips:
1. Let seniors help in the preparations – When you allow them to participate in the preparations for the holidays, you help them feel important and emotionally prepared for the upcoming events. Figure out what their current abilities are and help them if needed so that they can feel a sense of accomplishment.
* Rolling cookie dough and cutting shapes out of it
* Wiping the table
* Washing vegetables and fruit
* Wrapping presents
* Peeling potatoes
* Washing the dishes
* Setting the table
A task can be redone if it’s not to your standards, but allow them to continue helping so they feel included.
2. Minimize the Stress – If you find yourself anxious or stressed, it may affect seniors with dementia or Alzheimer’s as well. They are often sensitive to other’ emotions and moods. A cycle of challenging behavior can ensue as a result of this. One easy way of reducing stress is limiting your commitments. The holidays can often come with many time-consuming events that are not necessary. A great place to begin reducing stress is to learn to say “no” to these commitments.
If stress begins to get the better of you, take a brief pause away from your family member so it won’t influence them. Step into another room to take some deep breaths or arrange someone to care for the senior while you rest.
3. Plan ahead to modify family traditions – Ask your senior what tradition(s) they enjoy the most. Sometimes it’s best to focus on the most meaningful tradition. With so many caregiving responsibilities, it will likely be overwhelming and stressful to do everything “like we used to” and be able to find ways to make them work for your older adult.
Some examples would be to encourage them to bake cookies they once loved baking. The family could watch a football game together like the old days. A great idea would be to listen to music they enjoy listening to. It’s essential to make them feeling included in the holidays.
4. Prepare family on the senior’s condition – The holidays can often be a time of surprising updates on the senior’s current condition. It’s normal for those who see them regularly to adjust to the changes and not notice them as much. However, it can be quite the shock when visiting family notices the rapid declines of the loved one’s health. Family members should be given advance notice of what to expect about the senior before the holiday festivities.
You may want to talk with family ahead of time about your loved one’s current health condition, suggest how to interact with them, and explain common behaviors.