Alzheimer’s and the Holidays …
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We have come to the end of Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. Yet, with last week being Thanksgiving, it is a good time to look at Alzheimer’s and the holidays. The fact is everyday life with an Alzheimer family member can be challenging. Add in the holiday’s, which are already stressful, can become tension-filled.

 

Families will be gathering and celebrating. We must realize, without proper planning these gatherings can be a traumatic event for individuals with Alzheimer’s. The family must also take into consideration the stage of dementia the Alzheimer’s individual is experiencing: Is this someone recently diagnosed and just forgetful at time? Is the forgetfulness, embarrassing to the person? Does the family know the person has been diagnosed? Have they been apprised of the fact, the loved one may not recognize them? All of these questions should be answered BEFORE the family arrives.

 

Even with the challenges, the one thing you don’t want to do is exclude the loved one from gatherings. Whenever possible, include them. The Alzheimer’s Association’s Alzheimer and Dementia Caregiver Center’s online article, “Holiday’s and Alzheimer’s Families” says, “Take a deep breath. With some planning and adjusted expectation, your celebrations can still be happy, memorable occasions.”

 

The article, further, shares the following tips:

 

  • Monitor how the Alzheimer individual is doing: This is as simple as asking them “How are you doing?” However, if they are not able to communicate this to you, make sure key individual’s keep an eye on if the loved one is getting tired, overwhelmed or stressed.
  • Familiarize others about the situation: Take the time, ahead of time to let family members know what is happening and that their loved one may not remember them. It is key that family members understand this and do not pressure the individual to remember.
  • Adjust expectations: Be flexible…make new traditions, if necessary. If you are the caregiver, make sure you take care of yourself and your loved one’s needs first. Ask for help.
  • Adapt gift giving: Make sure the gifts given to the individual are safe for them. Caregivers, be brave ask for respite care as your gift. You need a break for your health and mentality. It also is a gift to your loved one because you are better capable to take care of them.
  • Maintain the loved one’s routine while including them: If your loved one with Alzheimer’s gets overly agitated and confused when tired. Make sure they are time to rest. Night time their worst…plan day events.

 

What if your loved one is living in a care facility? You can and still should include them in the holidays. It is not about whether they will remember…but about you and your family loving them.

 

Check if the facility is having any planned events. If yes, attend an event with your loved one.

However, don’t make the facility’s event one more item on your ‘to-do’ list. Timing of their event not good…then make plans to visit, which fits your schedule and is a good time (remember each Alzheimer’s individual is different and most have specific times of day which are better for them) for your loved one. Do they like to sing? Sing with them. Do they like books? Read to them. Or just sit with them.

 

No matter what you do, remember the holidays are a joyous time. With a little planning, you can make sure your loved one with Alzheimer’s is included and loved on by their family.

 

Reference: Holidays and the Alzheimer’s Family. Accessed at:

https://www.alz.org/care/alzheimers-dementia-holidays.asp.

Accessed on: November 19, 2017.