Guest blogger Shelly Beach offers some helpful suggestions for those caring for a loved one with dementia this holiday season
The holidays offer an extra level of stress for dementia patient caregivers. The hustle and bustle of the season adds confusion to already challenging caregiving priorities.
The following tips can help minimize anxiety for your loved one with dementia:
Minimize rearrangement of furniture to accommodate your Christmas tree and decorations.
Changing physical surroundings for those with dementia can cause confusion. Stacking gifts can create hazards for tripping. Even small decorations can be confused for candy or food and be eaten by someone with dementia. Brightly colored, twinkling lights can also cause confusion.
Keep the number of house guests to a minimum.
People love to help, so don’t be shy about asking friends to sit with your loved one so you can attend a special event. As much as you’d love to have Grandma at a special function, it might not be best for her to attend. Crowds and noise are very difficult for those with Dementia to handle; the confusion agitates them.
And if the event is in your home, keep the guest list to a minimum for your loved one’s sake.
Alter your loved one’s routine as little as possible.
People with Alzheimer’s thrive on routine. Sundowning is one of the most challenging symptoms of dementia–worsening of cognitive and physical challenges in late afternoon and evening hours. It was always a high priority for me to get my mother home before four in the afternoon. That was the time of day when she became most combative and uncooperative.
We may think our loved one might enjoy an evening Christmas pageant or lovely candlelight service. But the truth is that crowds, noise, lights, unfamiliar faces, and even multiple conversations can overwhelm those with dementia and Alzheimer’s. Their brains can no longer handle complex processing.
Make time for simple things.
Plan for down time with your loved one. Read a book together. Sing carols. Enjoy an afternoon of holiday baking–even if it means using store-bought dough.
Make simple ornaments or cards or watch It’s a Wonderful Life and share a bowl of popcorn.
Read the Christmas story or use the figures from a creche to talk about the events of the first Christmas.
Christmas will be more meaningful if you take time to slow down and soak in the true significance of love, sacrifice, mercy, and forgiveness.