Holiday tips for the family dealing with Alzheimer’s

Pamela J. Myers, Alzheimer’s Association NW and Central Ohio

        The holiday season is upon us once again – a time filled with opportunities for togetherness, laughter and sharing of memories. But sometimes our holidays bring stress and sadness. A person who is living with Alzheimer’s may feel a special sense of loss because of the changes they have experienced – and their caregivers may feel overwhelmed maintaining holiday traditions while providing care.
        How does a family who finds themselves dealing with Alzheimer’s disease in a loved one cope with and survive the holiday season? Here are some useful tips and strategies to not just endure, but to enjoy this special time of the year.
        • Make sure that everyone understands your caregiving situation and has realistic expectations about what you can and cannot do. No one should expect you to maintain every holiday tradition or event.
        • Give yourself permission to do only what you can reasonably manage. Think about having a potluck dinner, asking someone to order and bring dinner, or asking others to host.
        • Involve the person in safe, manageable holiday preparation activities that he or she enjoys. Ask him or her to help you prepare food, wrap packages, help decorate or set the table.
        • Maintain the person’s normal routine as much as possible, so that holiday preparations don’t become disruptive or confusing. Taking on too many tasks can wear on both of you.
        • Build on traditions and memories. Your family member may find comfort in going caroling, but you may also experiment with new traditions that might be less stressful or a better fit with your caregiving responsibilities, such as watching seasonal movies.
        • Provide people with suggestions for useful and enjoyable gifts for the person, such as an identification bracelet or membership in a wandering response service (contact the Alzheimer's Association 24/7 Helpline at 800-272-3900 for more information). Or, suggest comfortable, easy-to-remove clothing, favorite music, photo albums of family and friends or favorite treats.
        • Depending on his or her abilities and preferences, involve the person in gift giving. For example, someone who once enjoyed baking may enjoy helping to make cookies and pack them in tins or boxes.
        • If friends or family members ask you what you’d like for a gift, you may want to suggest a gift certificate or something that will help make things easier, like housecleaning, lawn, handyman or laundry services; restaurant gift cards or even volunteer to visit with the person for an afternoon so you can have some time off.
        • Celebrate over lunch or brunch, rather than an evening meal, so you can work around the evening confusion (sundowning) if it sometimes affects the person living with Alzheimer’s. Consider serving nonalcoholic drinks and keeping the room bright.
        • Prepare for post-holiday letdown. Arrange for in-home care so you can rest, enjoy a movie or have lunch with a friend, and reduce post-holiday stress and fatigue.
        For more tips, resources, or just someone to talk to during this holiday season, reach out to the Alzheimer’s Association Northwest Ohio Chapter at 419-537-1999 or call our 24/7 Helpline at 800-272-3900.


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