Tips to celebrate holidays with Alzheimer
The holidays are often celebrated with presents, food and quality time spent with family and friends. But they can also bring stress, disappointment and sadness. Celebrating holidays with Alzheimer may cause a special sense of loss. For caregivers, they will remember the happy memories of the past, but may also worry about the extra demands that holidays make on their time and energy.
Maintaining or adapting family rituals and traditions will help to feel a sense of belonging and strengthen family identity. For a person celebrating the holidays with Alzheimer, this link with a familiar past is reassuring. However, when the holidays include many people, this can cause confusion and anxiety. He or she may find some situations easier and more enjoyable than others.
The tips below can help you and your loved one with Alzheimer visit and reconnect with family, friends and neighbors during holidays.
Celebrating the holidays with Alzheimer – early stage
In the early stage, a person with Alzheimer may experience minor changes. Some may withdraw and be less comfortable socializing, while others may relish seeing family and friends as before. Simple questions as “How are you doing?” or “How are you coping with everything?” will be appreciated. Plan the holidays together, focusing on the things that bring happiness and letting go of activities that may seem overwhelming or stressful.
Relatives and friends might not notice any changes. But the person living with Alzheimer may have trouble following the conversation or tend to repeat him- or herself. Family can help with communication by being patient, not interrupting or correcting, and giving the person time to finish and share his or her thoughts.
Celebrating the holidays with Alzheimer – middle/late stage
As the disease progresses, make sure to review your holiday plans to ensure they are a good fit. The holidays are full of emotions, so it can help to let guests know what to expect before they arrive. There may be significant changes in cognitive abilities since the last time an out-of-town friend or relative has visited. These changes can be hard to accept. Make sure visitors understand that changes in behavior and memory are caused by the disease and not the person. You may find it easier to share changes in a letter or email prior to the celebration.
Celebrating the holidays with Alzheimer – involvement is key
A meaningful purpose is key for everyone, and especially for people celebrating the holidays with Alzheimer. Try to involve the person in the holiday preparation through activities that he or she enjoys and that are safe to execute. For example, ask him or her to help prepare the food, help decorate or set the table.
It may help to begin showing a photo of the guests a week before arrival. Each day, explain who the visitor is while showing the photo. It can also help to arrange a phone call for the person with Alzheimer’s and the visitor. It will give the visitor an idea of what to expect and the person with Alzheimer an opportunity to become familiar with the visitor.
Celebrating the holidays with Alzheimer – maintain the routine
Maintain the person’s normal routine as much as possible, so that holiday preparations don’t become disruptive or confusing. Guard against fatigue and find time for adequate rest.
And build on memories and traditions. Your loved one may find comfort in going caroling, but you may also experiment with new traditions that might be less stressful like watching seasonal movies.
Celebrating the holidays with Alzheimer – keep the home safe
Holiday decorations, such as Christmas trees, lights, or menorahs, should be secured so that they cannot fall or catch on fire. Anything flammable should be monitored at all times, and out of the way of those with Alzheimer’s disease and candles should never be lit without supervision. In addition, try to avoid clutter, especially in walkways, during the holidays.
Celebrating the holidays with Alzheimer – in a care facility
A holiday is still a holiday whether it is celebrated at home or at a care facility. So make sure to join your loved one in the facility-planned holiday activities, bring a favorite holiday food to share and sing holiday songs.