Celebrating the holidays when your loved one has Alzheimer’s or dementia can present challenges, and make for a different holiday season than years past. Here are some tips to make this festive season as enjoyable as possible for everyone.
1. Avoid too much excitement or overstimulation
The holidays are an exciting time, there’s no denying it! But, too much excitement can be a bad thing for those with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Studies have found that calm and quiet environments are best for those with memory impairments. Try to find ways to celebrate the season without quite as much noise, light, and stimulation. And if you know you will find yourself in situations that could be overwhelming for your loved one, be sure to set aside a calm and quiet space they can escape to if needed.
2. Keep it familiar
A sense of familiarity can be extremely valuable to those with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Too much perceived change can be triggering or upsetting. For that reason, do your best to maintain as much normalcy and continue as many of your usual traditions as possible. Of course, some things will have to change: That is inevitable when you have a loved one with memory impairment. However, using some of the same decorations, maintaining some of the same traditions, and listening to your loved one’s favorite music can all help give them (and you!) a better holiday experience.
3. Safety first
Safety and security are always important, but especially so when it comes to Alzheimer’s and dementia. Some holiday traditions can pose a safety hazard for those with memory impairments. Be mindful when you’re making plans, decorating the house, or coming up with festive activities for your family.
A few examples: If you usually use candles with open flames to decorate, consider switching to electric flames instead. If you have ornaments or other decorations that are fragile, consider whether you want to put those out, or who should be handling them to prevent breakage. There’s no quicker way to ruin a holiday than with a fire or injury! You can do your best to prevent these kinds of disasters with careful planning.
4. Be mindful about visitors
It’s the time of year when every single relative, friend, and acquaintance wants to visit. This is completely understandable: Spending time with loved ones over the holidays is so special. It may seem like a great idea on the surface to bring as many loved ones as possible by for a visit. However, too many visitors can easily overwhelm someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Be sure to keep the number of visitors to a manageable amount. And if your loved one starts to struggle, don’t be afraid to turn people away or suggest they return another time. A constant revolving door can add undue stress for someone with memory impairment. Spend special family time together, but just make sure that it’s not too much.
5. Manage expectations
This last tip may be the most important to ensure a fun and safe holiday season for everyone. Make sure to keep your expectations for your loved one and the holiday season as a whole realistic. The holidays can absolutely still be a joyful and special time. However, they are unlikely to be exactly the same as they were before. Alzheimer’s and dementia change things, and that is natural. Don’t expect too much from your loved one with memory impairment, and don’t be disappointed if things don’t go exactly to plan. Stay flexible and manage your expectations, and your family can still have a wonderful holiday season!
The 5 suggestions above are just some of the ways you can improve the holiday experience for your loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia, and for your entire family. Dolan Memory Care implements many of these practices in our homes as we celebrate the holidays, to create the safest and most enjoyable experience possible for all our residents!