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A Plan for The Holidays: For Dementia Families

The holidays can be a stressful time for most families, with emotions running high and other challenges. But for families living with Dementia or Alzheimer’s, the challenges may seem greater or even more stressful. Here are some helpful tips on how to make the most of your holiday and make it enjoyable for you, your family and your loved ones with Dementia:

1. Be Flexible, But Be Prepared

If your loved one’s behavior has changed recently, it may be prudent to write a letter or email to give your family members coming in a heads up. If your loved one reacts negatively to loud sounds or music, it would be beneficial for all to know beforehand. If your loved one cannot walk well without assistance, perhaps it makes sense to invite others to your home or some place without stairs or steps. Anticipate the needs before they arise. Make sure you have all necessary medications and other important personal items. If evening confusion and agitation are a problem, consider moving a traditional dinner to a lunch or earlier event.

2. Involve Your Loved One

This may seem like common-sense, but it means a lot to our loved ones when we involve them in decision-making and activities. They might truly enjoy signing familiar holiday songs or looking through old photo albums. (This can be a fun activity to include children in as well.) Depending on their abilities, they may be able to assist you with wrapping presents, decorating the tree or table or other helpful duties. Perhaps you ask them what their favorite holiday side dish is, and you make it together.

3. Modify Gift-Giving

Dementia can make gift-giving challenging. Some gifts can be unusable or even dangerous. Gifts they can easily enjoy such as comfortable clothing, photo albums or scrapbooks are great ideas. If friends or family ask you what you want for the holidays, suggest to them that a gift certificate to take care of yourself would be a welcomed idea, such a massage, cleaning service or even a Kind Companion to step in for a few hours per week to provide some respite care.

If your loved one lives in a nursing home or facility, it’s still a holiday. Don’t be afraid to ask the facility staff about organized activities in which you and your family can participate. Perhaps you can bring their favorite food dish to share or read a story or poem aloud. Many memory care facilities say their residents love to have visitors come and sing holiday songs or old hymns or read to them.

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