The holidays are a wonderful time for families to connect and celebrate together, but they can also be hectic due to all of the shopping, meal planning, and decorating. For family caregivers assisting a loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia, the holiday season can be even more stressful. Before decking the halls this year, Senior HomeCare of Tucson, provider of Catalina memory care services and dementia care in nearby areas, shares helpful preparation and holiday tips for Alzheimer’s caregivers to help make the season more enjoyable.
Planning Holiday Visits
When planning holiday visits with a loved one with Alzheimer’s, keep the following ideas in mind to help reduce the stress of the season:
- Have small gatherings – Limit the number of visitors to 1-2 people at a time. Large gatherings may be overwhelming or exhausting to the person with dementia.
- Pick a good time – Schedule visits when the individual is at his or her best.
- Maintain routines – As best as possible, try to follow the older adult’s regular routine to help keep things consistent even while celebrating. Keeping up with meal times, medications, and periods of rest can provide familiarity and comfort in the day.
- Keep the visit short – If you are bringing the loved one to an event, or if others are coming for a visit in the senior’s home, try to keep the visit brief. Short visits can be easier and less exhausting.
- Find a quiet area – If at an event, find a quiet area that the person you love can retreat to if they need a break from the festivities.
- Adjust your own expectations – Holiday celebrations with a loved one with dementia are likely to be different than those of the past, but you can still have a lovely time together. It helps to remain flexible and to be prepared in case you have to leave early to accommodate the individual’s needs.
- Prepare visitors – Before guests arrive, let them know what to expect, so they have some time to prepare as well. Help visitors understand how Alzheimer’s is affecting the older adult’s behaviors and appearance. Go over effective communication tips and the day’s plans, so everyone is on the same page. Guests may have ideas of activities to bring to share with the loved one as well.
Taking time to plan holiday visits or outings can help make the experience more enjoyable and less stressful for the person living with dementia.
Create a Calm Environment
The holidays are a time to celebrate. Parties and family gatherings are a great place to bring older loved ones to ensure they feel included in the festivities. To avoid overwhelming the person, use these holiday tips for Alzheimer’s caregivers that can help make the environment a more comfortable place for a loved one with dementia.
- Minimize distractions – A calm environment can help reduce stress and challenging behaviors. Holiday music or movies playing in the background may be distracting, but if music is enjoyable to the individual, keep the volume low.
- Be thoughtful with holiday decor – Keep the individual with Alzheimer’s in mind when planning seasonal decorations. Flashing or blinking lights, loud music, or decorations that require rearranging the room can be overwhelming and distracting. Holiday decorations can also increase clutter and make getting around the space more difficult for older adults, increasing the risk of confusion or falls.
- Consider safety hazards – Some decorations, such as candles, can add new safety risks. If you would like to use candles, consider electronic or battery-operated candles instead of ones with flames. Also watch out for any fragile décor that might have sharp edges if broken. Large decorative items, such as a Christmas tree, can be anchored so they cannot be pulled down. Also avoid any decorations that may be mistaken for food and accidentally eaten.
Plan Meaningful Activities to Enjoy Together
There are many fun activities for you and older loved ones to enjoy together during the holiday season. Have fun thinking about meaningful activities the person with dementia may enjoy while being mindful of his or her abilities and needs. Holidays can be wonderfully stimulating for the senses with all the tastes of favorite recipes, aromas of baking or pine trees, or melodies of favorite holiday songs. Some festive ideas to explore together include:
- Bake or decorate holiday cookies
- Wrap or unwrap gifts
- Decorate holiday cards
- Open greeting cards, and reminisce about the senders
- Look through photo albums
- Sing holiday songs, or listen to favorite holiday music
- Watch a beloved holiday movie
- Prepare a family recipe
- Talk about gift ideas for family members
- Go for a walk or drive to look at holiday decorations
- Enjoy hot chocolate with festive toppings
Preparing for holiday celebrations with a loved one with Alzheimer’s can help make the experience more pleasant and inclusive while helping to reduce some of the stress that can make events overwhelming.
For additional holiday tips for Alzheimer’s caregivers, reach out to Senior HomeCare of Tucson by calling (520) 355-4787. Our caregiving team is available to answer any questions you may have about our Catalina memory care or caregiving services in the surrounding areas.