The holidays can be a stressful for time. The perfect gift takes time to find and money to buy. The holiday meal can takes days to prepare. The visits from friends and family send us hunting for the feather duster and mop. Holidays are fun but exhausting.
Now, add dementia to the typical stress of this time of year. The sights and sounds that used to be so endearing are more irritating that enjoyable. The little children running and screaming their excitement is nerve-wracking. The holiday cards that were once a welcomed review of the past year are now only confusing words from strangers. The holidays aren’t what they used to be.
In order to not just survive but enjoy the holidays, here are some helpful hints when celebrating with a person with dementia:
· Be aware of the volume. If your loved one is becoming agitated, turn down the carols on the CD player or ask the kids to play in another room for a while.
· Introduce everyone. Your loved one may not be able to remember names. Rather than embarrass them, introduce everyone as a means of helping your loved one and easing the tension surrounding their forgetfulness.
· Include the older members of the family. We tend to want to host our families rather than engage them. However, everyone likes to feel needed and giving friends and family a “job” gives everyone a sense of importance, especially folks with dementia. Simple tasks such as polishing silver or folding napkins are non-harmful tasks that folks with dementia can easily recall and complete.
· Be sensitive and accommodating to feelings of loss. Many elderly folks become sad around the holidays. Their spouse and/or friends may have passed away; they may have moved from their long-time family home into an assisted living facility, they may have medical conditions that hinder their ability to be an active participant in the holiday celebrations. Talking about missing loved ones may help the elder to reminisce about their losses. Also, videotaping a child’s school holiday play may allow your loved one to watch little Johnny perform without having to worry about issues of ambulation or travel.
· CALL US! If we can help in any way by either providing you helpful hints, referrals to local resources or an ear to listen to you “vent,” call us at 894-6720. Our goal is to support and encourage families while families support and encourage loved ones.