The Holidays can be a joyful and exciting time of year, but they can also be a stress inducer for those caring for a family member or loved one with dementia. Here is some helpful information to assist you with this time of year. The holidays can bring sadness to many. A person with dementia can feel a sense of loss during this time. They may feel like someone or something is missing or miss a loved one that has passed. They may not understand the increasing number of family members around them during this time of year. Where you may feel nostalgic, your loved one may not want to participate or understand. They may appear confused, withdrawn or even agitated. The things that you enjoy, like decorating and singing carols around the tree may be something they are no longer interested in. Do not take it personally.
- Make sure the traditions and activities are safe for your loved one with memory loss. Lighting candles during a meal may now be a safety hazard.
- Changing routines during the season could upset your loved one. Try to celebrate with your loved one in surroundings that are familiar to them..A long trip may not be a good idea.. Be prepared if you do travel with your loved one. Ensure you are equipped with medication, emergency phone numbers and a change of clothes in case of an accident. Plan extra time for additional bathroom breaks. Traveling in the evening or at night is not recommended. Loved ones with mid to late stage dementia often experience of phenomenon called “sundowning” and appear restless and more confused as the sun goes down. Share joyful Holiday memories of the past with your loved one. Show old photos or play some generational music that may bring to mind forgotten memories. Try not to over stimulate, encourage activities that exude a familiar time for them.
- While Holiday dinners are commonplace, try a holiday breakfast or lunch. Nighttime can be scary and upsetting to someone with dementia especially if they are not in familiar surroundings. Start a new tradition and switch things up to accommodate the needs of your loved one.
- Favorite foods are a source of comfort and often spark memories of
holidays past. Make sure a few of your loved ones favorites are included in your holiday menu.. Keep an eye on what and how much food your loved one is consuming. Go ahead, let them enjoy dessert first. Our taste buds that sense sweets have the longest memory and they may enjoy it much more than other foods. Consult their healthcare provider before offering any alcoholic beverages.
Activities you can enjoy with your loved one during the holiday season:
- Make a wreath
- Bake cookies
- Arrange a holiday bouquet or make a centerpiece
- Listen to holiday music familiar to your loved one
- Create a memory box or album with photos of past holidays or significant events in your loved one life.
- Create handmade greeting cards, allow them to write and address them if possible.
Keep your expectations in line with reality. No matter what, enjoy time with your loved one, whether it is a family gathering, holiday meal or a walk in the park.