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Making the Holidays Enjoyable for your Loved One with Alzheimer’s

A portrait of senior grandfather and a small girl in snowy nature on a winter day.

Many people use the holidays as a time to give, say thanks, and celebrate with the people they love. This is a joyous time for many of us but can sometimes bring added stress and sadness- particularly for our loved ones with Alzheimer’s. Knowing where your loved one’s capabilities are, and meeting them where they are at, is one of the best ways to make the holidays pleasant for all.

Our Senior Gems program, developed by Teepa Snow, helps point our families and caregivers in the right direction when deciding what activities and actions will make our loved ones with Alzheimer’s or dementia feel best. Consider implementing some of these tips into your holidays this year:

Create a Comfortable Environment

When a person has dementia, their environment can drastically change how they feel. Although the holidays are a big time for decoration, consider limiting the décor. You could do this by opting for regular lights instead of flashing lights. Another option would be to stick with a basic color scheme instead of having bright, eccentric patterns everywhere. While these kinds of décor are fun,  they can overstimulate the mind of a loved one with dementia, especially if they are in the later stages of brain change, such as a Ruby or Pearl.

Include Them in Activities

People with dementia like to feel connected and included. Planning their favorite activities will help get them into the holiday spirit and combat the loneliness they might be feeling. Some activities you could consider are baking, watching movies, scrapbooking, making jewelry, and many more. It’s the little actions of inclusion that make a huge difference for your loved one with dementia.

Prepare the Person with Alzheimer’s

While our holiday activities may be more limited in 2020, it’s important to know that being surrounded by many people, who they may not remember well, can be overwhelming and scary for your loved one with Alzheimer’s. However, this can be a lovely experience if they are prepared for it. Creating familiarity begins before the holiday or special occasion is here. This can be done through a few methods:

1.       Show the person with Alzheimer’s photos of people who are coming. Explain their names and how they would know them. Do not overwhelm them with too much information, but just enough so they can recognize these people as familiar faces.

2.       Conduct phone calls between the family members coming and the person with dementia. Some people find voices more familiar than faces. This will allow the person with dementia to be able to make a connection with the family members coming. They may not remember names or faces, but the familiar voices will create comfort.

Lastly, it is very important to allow your loved one with dementia to get proper rest. Holidays are long and stressful for those who do not have dementia, so it is especially draining on those that do. Encouraging times for naps and also creating a quiet and comfortable space to do so will allow your loved one to recharge and not become burnt out.

For more information regarding how to help your senior with dementia during the holidays, please join us for Teepa Snow’s webinar on December 9 where she will be able to share great tips for a successful holiday!