With only a few weeks left in the year, it feels as if we are now fully in the heat of the holiday season. This should be a time of joy and happiness, but as a caregiver for a loved one with dementia, you may be finding yourself overwhelmed, confused and unsure how to help your loved one enjoy the holidays too.
“The holidays should be an enriching time for the whole family,” states Suzy McCann, Community Relations Director of YourLife™ of Pensacola, a Memory Care community in Pensacola, FL. “That sense of family tradition gives a loved one with dementia a feeling of belonging, a reassuring and familiar link to the past.”
“However, all the change around the holiday season can be a lot for a loved one with dementia,” McCann continues. “It’s important to find the right balance of celebrations, special events and holiday festivities for your loved one, to lessen their confusion and anxiety and ensure they enjoy this holiday season as much as the rest of the family.”
Hints for This Holiday Season
Finding the right balance for your loved one with dementia over the holidays can come as a daunting task. However, by following these helpful hints offered by the National Institute on Aging, you and your loved one will be able to fully enjoy the holiday season without worry or concern.
Prepare Your Loved One
As your loved one’s dementia progresses, they may be easily confused and have difficulty with short term memory. In trying to understand the mass amount of new people and things around them over the holidays, your loved one may become agitated and frustrated. To ease these struggles, it is important that you communicate and prepare your loved one for the upcoming change.
Communication is key to help your loved one with dementia comprehend what is happening during the holidays. Be prepared to repeat a variety of reminders to let your loved one know who is coming to visit or that you plan to decorate on a particular day. Keeping these reminders straightforward, simple and concise will aid your loved one’s short term memory and help them process the holiday events around them.
Be Adaptable with Traditions
Structure and routine are extremely beneficial to those with dementia. However, it can be difficult to maintain a routine with all the festivities of the holiday season. To best help your loved one keep to their normal schedule, you may have to consider adapting or shifting your family traditions slightly.
Being flexible for your loved one with dementia will help them remain calm and truly enjoy this holiday season. If evenings are a struggle, consider moving your festivities to earlier in the day. Instead of an overwhelmingly large family gathering, suggest that relatives come in smaller groups to visit. Planning ahead and thinking about the timing of your holiday festivities can negate negative emotions and outbursts, allowing all to enjoy your time together.
Make Sure Decorations Are Safe
Bright lights, large decorative displays and any shifting of furniture can greatly disorient your loved one with dementia. Stay away from decorations that cause clutter or involve rearranging the setup of your living space. There’s no need for a massive Christmas tree when a smaller one will do. Keep decorations simple and decisive.
It is also imperative to avoid safety hazards around your loved one. Reconsider small breakable objects or decorations that could be mistaken as food. Make sure all cords and electrical lines are properly secured and covered. Switch out open-flame candles for electric alternatives. These precautions will not only keep your loved one with dementia safe but will maintain the safety of your entire family this holiday season.
Consider Preparing a Quiet Space
Family gatherings can be a lot for your loved one with dementia. Large crowds and high noise levels can cause your loved one to become disoriented and annoyed. To help avoid this, consider creating a quiet space or room within your home.
A quiet room can be a vital space for your loved one to escape to and calm down if a holiday gathering becomes a little too much for them. This room may include family photo albums or items that soothe and relax them. A separate space may also be useful to have your loved one meet with relatives one-on-one instead of in a large group setting if necessary.
Plan Inclusive Activities
The holiday season is about connecting and spending time with family. Because of such, it is important to plan activities which allow your loved one with dementia to interact and socialize without becoming overstimulated. These activities should meet your loved one’s abilities while still allowing them to be an active member in your family’s festivities.
Think about your loved one’s interests and plan a number of activities that focus on different senses and movement. Setting the table for a holiday meal or measuring out ingredients for festive cookie recipes allows your loved one to be involved and connect with past holiday traditions. Keep these activities simple. A short walk to enjoy holiday lights, depending on the weather, or gathering together with cocoa to watch a holiday film brings the family together and is inclusive for all involved.
Spending the holidays with your loved one with dementia is all about finding the right balance for you and your family. Each family and situation differs, so consider what you are capable of and what is best for your loved one. Keep these helpful holiday hints in mind. However, at the end of the day, don’t be afraid to reach out for a helping hand. It’s okay to admit you can’t do it all alone.
To learn more about best supporting your loved one with dementia during this holiday season, contact the team at YourLife™of Pensacola. We would be happy to help you learn more about memory loss, provide you with support and help you provide the best care for your loved one. To RSVP to a support group or to get in touch with a member of our team, contact us today at 850-203-4053!
The Memory Care Your Loved One Deserves
Offering the very best in Memory Care, YourLife™of Pensacola was designed specifically with residents in mind. We’ve created a community where residents can define their own lifestyle, based on their preferences, needs and story, all while having the peace of mind of 24-hour support and the freedom to define their own lifestyles.
Because we focus solely on Memory Care, all of our resources and attention are on catering to each resident’s needs while providing unequaled peace of mind for families. Our licensed nurses and YourLife™Personal Care Specialists are on site 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to provide personally inspired care and support, no matter what your needs. With such dedicated care, our residents have the support they need to live as independently and engaged as possible.
At YourLife™of Pensacola, YourStory comes to life. Whether you want to enjoy our exclusive activities and YourStory programming, spend time exploring our services and amenities, relax in our easy-to-navigate Memory Care neighborhoods and living areas or try something new, the choice is entirely up to you. Contact us to learn more!