Helpful holiday hints for caring for those with dementia

Helpful holiday hints for caring for those with dementia

(KFVS) - The holiday season can be stressful for just about everyone.

Add extra spending, parties and concerts and baking into the mix and it's easy to feel overwhelmed.

For those with dementia, or those who are caring for those with dementia, the holidays can be confusing and even more stressful.

The Alzheimer's Association has 10 helpful tips for navigating the holidays.

1. Familiarize others with the situation. The holidays are full of emotions, so it can help to let guests know what to expect before they arrive.

2. Call a meeting to discuss upcoming plans. Invite family and friends to a face-to-face meeting, or if getting together in person is a problem, set up a conference call. Make sure everyone understands your caregiving situation and has realistic expectations about what you can do. Be honest about any limitations or needs, such as keeping a daily routine.

3. Be good to yourself. Give yourself permission to do only what you can reasonably manage. If you've always invited 15 to 20 people to your home, consider paring it down to a few guests for a simple meal. Let others contribute. Perhaps consider a potluck style dinner.

4. Do a variation on a theme. If evening confusion and agitation are a problem, consider changing a holiday dinner into a holiday lunch or brunch. If you do keep the celebration at night, keep the room well-lit and try to avoid any known triggers.

5. Build on past traditions and memories. Focus on activities that are meaningful to the person with dementia. Your family member may find comfort in singing old holiday songs or looking through old photo albums.

6. Involve the person in holiday preparation. As the person's abilities allow, invite him or her to help you prepare food, wrap packages, help decorate or set the table. This could be as simple as having the person measure an ingredient or hand you decorations as you put them up.

7. Maintain a normal routine. Sticking to the person's normal routine will help keep the holidays from becoming disruptive or confusing. Plan time for breaks or rest.

8. Encourage safe and useful gifts for the person with dementia. Diminishing capacity may make some gifts unusable or even dangerous to a person with dementia. If someone asks for gift ideas, suggest items the person with dementia needs or can easily enjoy. Ideas include: an identification bracelet, comfortable clothing, music, videos and photo albums.

9. Put respite care on your wish list. If friends or family ask what you want for a gift, suggest a gift certificate or something that will help you take care of yourself as you care for your loved one. This could be a cleaning or household chore service, an offer to provide respite care, or something that provides you with a bit of rest and relaxation.

10. When the person lives in a care facility. A holiday is still a holiday whether it is celebrated at home or at a care facility. Celebrate together by joining your loved one in any facility-planned holiday activities. Bring a favorite holiday food to share. Sing holiday songs and ask if other residents can join in. You could also read a favorite holiday story or poem out loud.

The Alzheimer's Association provides 24/7 support and guidance to navigating the holidays through its helpline, (800) 272-3900.

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