How to Care for a Loved one with Alzheimer’s and Enjoy Holidays
Holidays can present unique challenges for Alzheimer’s caregivers. On the one hand, the holidays bring friends and families together, trigger up good memories and can also be a kind of reminiscent therapy for people with Alzheimer’s suffering from memory loss. However, holidays can put extra demands on the time and strength of caregivers. Also, caregivers have their own needs during the holidays and these can conflict with also having to take care of a person with dementia. However, with the right planning you can care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s and enjoy holidays.
The National Institute of Aging (NIA) has put together a list of hints to help caregivers and those afflicted with dementia to get the best out of the holiday season. Here are some suggestions to have a happy holiday while being a caregiver.
Try to include the person afflicted with Alzheimer’s as much as possible in holiday festivities that you want to participate in.
Set limits as to what you can do together with the person with dementia and make these clear to other family members. Also, be certain to prepare guests who will be arriving, especially those who may not have seen the Alzheimer’s person for a while about changes that have taken place. Explain to them that there may be wandering, hallucinations or incontinence. The demented person may not remember how to eat with forks and spoons and may dip their fingers into all kinds of foods. Tell the guests that it may be painful for them to see a loved one who is now in an entirely different state and who may not recognize them. Emphasize to them that the memory loss is the result of the disease and no one should take it to heart if the demented loved one no longer remembers them.
Try to get the Alzheimer’s person to participate in simple preparations for the holiday, to help in some small way or to encourage them to watch the preparations being made by other family members or the caregiver. This may also be a good reminiscent and enjoyable way for the person with Alzheimer’s to participate in getting ready for the holiday.
If you are having friends and family to your home, keep things simple, so that you will not be so tied up with cooking that you cannot also help the loved one who has Alzheimer’s. A potluck meal where everyone coming brings something towards the dinner will be much easier for everyone.
People with Alzheimer’s often get overwhelmed in a new strange place or if there are a lot of people around and new faces. Any change in routine can be very upsetting. It might be a good idea to have the person with dementia in a separate room and have guests go in a few at a time. This way you can keep the person with Alzheimer’s from becoming overstimulated or upset.
If you are going out to a large event or gathering, make certain there will be a quiet place where the person with Alzheimer’s can go to rest.
Avoid going to places with lots of noise, very loud music, very bright or dim lighting and especially not be around flashing lights and lights that move around. In fact a combination of flashing lights and loud noises and music can be absolutely traumatic for someone with dementia.
See that the person with Alzheimer’s is not given alcoholic drinks and that they will get the kinds of foods to eat that they are used to. If you are going to a gathering or event, you might even consider taking along something that they are used to eating.
Keep a close eye on the person with Alzheimer’s around electrical lighting, Christmas trees, a menorah or candelabra that have lit candles or electrical equipment. Do not leave a person with Alzheimer’s alone in a room with lit candles. Keep the floors free of clutter so that they will not trip and fall. People with Alzheimer’s have a very high rate of falls. Read more about home safety for people suffering from Alzheimer’s.
Preparing the Person with Alzheimer’s for the Arrival of Guests
Show photos of the guests who are coming to your demented loved one about a week before they come and continue this every day explaining to them all the time who the person is in the photo. You might even try arranging a phone call between the person who will soon arrive as a guest and the person with Alzheimer’s.
Even though there may be lots of preparations going on, try to keep to the normal routine of the person with Alzheimer’s.
Make sure your demented loved one does not get fatigued and has time to rest.
If you are invited somewhere that is not appropriate to take with you the family member with dementia, you might want to consider placing your loved one for a short while in respite care. The best place for respite care is usually a memory care center in a skilled nursing and rehabilitation center. Here the staff will know how to treat people with Alzheimer’s and help them not to feel overwhelmed in a new setting. Memory care units are especially designed in all ways to help the person with dementia. You will be able to go away knowing that your loved one is being properly cared for and is safe. You can read more about the various types of respite care in our blog post from April 25, 2018.
Royal Suites Healthcare and Rehabilitation in Galloway Township, New Jersey
The Royal Suites Healthcare and Rehabilitation in Galloway Township, New Jersey, has a state-of-the-art impaired memory care unit. They have very unique therapies such as a special Snoezelen room, aroma therapy and more. They also offer respite care. To read more about impaired memory care at Royal Suites Healthcare and Rehabilitation, see our blog post from May 29, 2018.
With the right preparation you will be able to care for your loved one with Alzheimer’s and enjoy the holidays. Respite care can also give you a break to do something for yourself over the holidays.