Almost everyone loves the holiday season, and senior living residents with dementia or Alzheimer’s are no exception. They want to be included in holiday festivities in a way that makes them feel comfortable and welcome.
Someone with dementia should not be thrust into overwhelming activities. The additional stress that comes from the holiday season can create undesirable effects. Agitation, mood swings, confusion, and unpredictable behaviors are just some of the things to look out for.
One of the key memory care solutions to preparing a loved one with dementia or Alzheimer’s for the holidays is to adjust expectations. This goes for everyone involved. With the right expectations, a person with dementia can enjoy the holiday season along with everyone else.
So here are tips for how you can plan dementia-friendly activities, show friends and relatives what to say and do, help your loved one with dementia feel calm and safe, and more.
Scale back, lean back, and chill
The holidays bring a lot of changes. These changes include daily routine changes, conversations with extended family, and following annual traditions that are seldom held at any other time of the year if at all. Unexpected changes, especially in senior living environments, can create immense stress for seniors with dementia.
You can still do everything that you want to do with your loved one. Just scale things back a bit. Learn to modify the traditional activities so your loved one with dementia feels safe and included.
Even if they don’t remember these traditions, the warm feelings they’ll experience when you plan right will be a whole new memory that will make them happy.
There are a few key things to remember:
- Keep tabs on your own stress levels. People with Alzheimer’s or dementia can pick up on others’ moods easily. If you’re stressed or anxious, they’ll likely become the same. Just don’t put too many obligations on your plate, and you’ll be fine.
- With all of the rest of your responsibilities as a caregiver trying to follow every tradition exactly as it was followed before will just add more stress. Instead, modify or possibly leave out some traditions to accommodate your older loved one. As a bonus, this will also make them feel more important and involved.
- You should also involve them in the holiday preparations. Let them help and get familiar with the upcoming festivities. Let them focus on the small things that they’re able to accomplish on their own. They will feel useful and satisfyingly occupied while you can focus on the big picture stuff. Don’t make the décor too dazzling as this can cause your loved one feelings of disorientation and overstimulation. The focus should be on the stuff that brings back happy memories and are part of important family traditions.
Make your loved one comfortable at events
As we said, when it comes to senior living, you don’t want your loved one to feel overstimulated by the holiday festivities.
Follow these tips to modify the celebrations to be palatable for your loved one:
- Keep groups smaller. Too much group activity can overstimulate someone with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Don’t feel obliged to stick to family traditions. If it’s a tradition for everyone to get together at once, just host a couple of casual get-togethers for small groups of relatives spread out over a couple of weeks. Alternatively, just limit your guest list to immediate family only.
- Plan the most meaningful events with your loved one’s schedule in mind. They might be a morning person and not an evening person or vice versa.
- Set aside a “safe space” for your loved one during larger family gatherings. This will help prevent overstimulation and family members can visit them one by one instead of all at once.
- People with Alzheimer’s and dementia really love music. You could have your family members sing their favorite song, have the children sing traditional holiday songs, have a small dance party, play their favorite albums, and you get the drift.
- Lots of older folks have more sensitive stomachs. Keep this in mind if you’re a youngster. To avoid digestive problems with your loved one, try to limit their intake of foods that are too different from their normal diet. This may be hard if there are lots of delicious treats but you should try at least. Also, sugar and alcohol can cause bad behavioral side effects in those with dementia and Alzheimer’s, not to mention causing potential complications with their medications.
- Don’t forget about the children. They should understand beforehand that your loved one has dementia or Alzheimer’s and that any angry outbursts from them aren’t the children’s fault. This will help reassure them that spending time with your loved one is alright. However, have another adult supervise things to make sure that things don’t get out of hand.
Ensure that everyone is on the same page
It’s not uncommon in America for families to only get together once or twice a year for holiday celebrations. So when they visit a senior living facility for individuals with dementia or Alzheimer’s, they might be nervous about their condition.
You’re used to your loved one being this way, but it can be quite a shock to your family to see how much they’ve declined since the last get together. Too much shock from your relatives can lead to other unwanted behaviors from them or your loved one.
You can help to minimize these possibilities by informing everyone about what to expect before the events take place. Doing this will probably reduce or eliminate most negative comments, and your older adult will be treated with more respect and care.
Here are some of the things that you should inform your family members about to reduce their level of shock:
- significant weight loss or gain
- unpredictable behavior, memory, and cognitive issues resulting from the Alzheimer’s or dementia
- using a wheelchair or relying more on a walker
- lacking the ability to use the restroom or eat by themselves
- wearing disposable briefs
For more information and tips for the holidays, contact Ocean Hills.