Holiday Tips for Caregivers
By Azura Memory Care
While those facing Alzheimer's disease or a related illness in their family might question the sentiment, experts say that it is possible to not only keep the cheer in the holidays, but also to savor them.
Communicate concerns. In advance of the holidays, be candid with family and friends about your loved one's condition and your concerns, and enlist their support. In cases where resentment brews because one family member assumes the primary caregiving role, use this season of giving as an opportunity to discuss sharing family responsibilities and to strive for family togetherness.
Set realistic expectations. Consider both what the individual with dementia is capable of and what you, as a caregiver, can handle given your demanding role. Then, put celebrations into manageable proportions. This can help decrease stress and head off feelings of depression that stem from unrealistic expectations, both for you and your loved one.
Select appropriate activities. Be mindful of the individual's current mental condition and do special things that they can still appreciate. Engage your loved one in singing and dancing since these abilities tend to remain intact longer. Involve them in some rituals—whether it is lighting the menorah, decorating the tree or baking cookies. Try to spark memories by bringing out family photographs or heirlooms. But do not demand mental performance by asking them to name people, places or other facts. Rather, help stimulate memories by offering descriptions as you present each object.
Pare down traditions. With round-the-clock caregiving, it may not be feasible to juggle all of your religious and ethnic observances. You can still keep traditions alive; just reduce their number to avoid feeling overwhelmed and frustrated. Ask your loved one which traditions to choose; it is another way to involve them.
Adapt family gatherings. Since crowds, noise and altering routines can aggravate confusion and other behavioral problems, revising your get-togethers may be in order. For example, instead of entertaining the whole clan, limit the number of attendees at a holiday dinner or spread out several smaller gatherings on different days. Mark a calendar with upcoming visits to make your loved one feel special.
Stick with familiar settings. Because new environments can increase disorientation and pose safety concerns, discard restaurants or relatives' houses in favor of your own home. Likewise, if Mass is still important to your loved one, consider how they can participate. For example, take your loved one to an earlier, less crowded service; if they can not leave their home structure, watch a Mass on TV or ask clergy to make a house call.
Head off problems. Avoid alcohol, which may cause depression, increase the risk of falls and add to the loss of brain cells. Try to schedule holiday activities or visits earlier in the day before the potential for sun downing—behavioral problems that typically occur toward dusk among those in the middle stages of dementia. And, in preparing for holiday celebrations, do not re-arrange furniture or create obstacles-both are accidents waiting to happen.