The Holidays can be bittersweet for families affected by Alzheimer’s disease, especially when memories of past Christmases and worries about your loved one’s condition may darken the festivities. A good approach is to try to focus on the things that can still be enjoyed together, rather than on the things that are no longer possible. Here are some suggestions for making this special time of the year as enjoyable as possible for everyone.
If you're caring for an Alzheimer’s sufferer at home, watch out for decorations. Avoid bright lights and large ornaments that could disorient your loved one. Keep safety in mind, for example by avoiding candles and other sources of fire, as well as objects on which the person could trip. Make holiday preparations together, such as giving your loved one simple tasks to do to help you while you’re baking. Remember to focus on the process rather than on the final result.
If you are hosting family or friends, favour more quiet gatherings. Loud music and conversations can add to the noise and stimulation of an event, but for a person with Alzheimer’s, a calm, quiet environment is usually best. Maintain daily routines as much as possible and provide a place where your loved one can rest during get-togethers, when needed.
For many people with Alzheimer’s, any change of environment can cause anxiety. If this is the case, you might consider holding a small family celebration at the facility where your loved one resides, rather than going out.
It is also advisable to visits persons with Alzheimer’s at the time of day when they have the most energy. Coordinate visits so that only a few visitors are present at any given time.
Lastly, if you’re caring for someone with Alzheimer’s, don’t forget to take care of yourself as well. All good things in moderation! Decide which activities are most important to you, simplify the festivities, and delegate the tasks can be handled by someone else. These are all strategies that will let you focus on what matters most: to enjoy the Holidays, without getting overwhelmed by the stress that comes from wanting to do everything. As natural caregiver, you know better than anyone what your loved one can handle and what might be disruptive. Trust yourself to adapt the festivities as required.