10 Nov Celebrating the Holidays and Caring for Someone With Alzheimer’s Disease
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The holidays can be a stressful time. In general, underlying family dynamics are highlighted when everyone is together during the holidays. The tension can come from that relative who drinks too much, political debates, or the expectation of creating the perfect family dinner which falls short of the Norman Rockwell portrait you were envisioning. And holiday stress is compounded when caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or other form of dementia.
Tips to Reduce Holiday Stress
- Scale down plans. Give yourself a break and reduce/simplify your usual holiday activities. Perhaps celebrate only one major holiday and have a quiet evening at home for others. Order a prepared turkey or ham, with all the trimmings, from your local grocer. Reduce or eliminate gift giving. Purchase presents for grandchildren only. Scale back on decorations or don’t put any up at all.
- Set limits. Be very clear with family and friends about your limits. For example, “Because of our situation, I cannot host the family dinner this year. Someone else will need to step up.” Or, “We will only come over for a short time and then we need to get back home.”
- Permission to say no. It’s ok to turn down invitations during the holidays or decline requests from family members or friends. Saying no to people can be difficult. Still, for a caregiver, even the simplest tasks may seem like a heavy burden. Practice saying no before someone asks you for something so you won’t be caught off guard. Be polite, but firm and assertive. For example, “No, I won’t be able to come to your cookie exchange this year, but I will miss seeing you.
- Involve the person with Alzheimer’s. Those with Alzheimer’s disease often like to sit and observe loved ones in holiday preparations, from dressing the Thanksgiving turkey to decorating the Christmas tree. Watching these traditional activities can bring the person some joy and pleasure while possibly sparking memories of past holiday celebrations
- Encourage visits. Following CDC guidelines for Covid-19 safety, invite family and friends over. These visits can provide great happiness to a person with Alzheimer’s disease. However limit the number of guests to a small number for each visit.
- Go for a drive. Take a drive to look at holiday decorations. Those with dementia often enjoy getting out of their environment for a change of scenery.
- Have a quiet space. People with Alzheimer’s disease can experience confusion and frustration at loud conversations or noise. Make sure there is a quiet room a person can retreat to relax or take a nap.
Take Time for Yourself
- Ask for help. Don’t be reluctant to ask friends or other family members for help during the holidays. Be specific so others will know what is expected of them. For example, “Can you come over and sit with my mom Friday night between 6 and 9 so I can go to my neighbor’s Christmas party?”
- Hire a paid caregiver. Hire a home health aide or caregiver/personal assistant a few hours a week to give yourself a break during the holidays. The average cost of home health is $15 to $25 per hour depending on location. Check with friends for a reference, ask around a parent’s assisted living facility for recommendations, or go through a home health care agency.
- Practice self-care. During the holidays it is especially important to take care of your own mental and physical health. Exercise several times a week by either going to the gym or taking a walk. Exercise will boost your mood and your body will release serotonin and endorphins, those feel good hormones. Get a 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night, eat nutritious meals, and don’t miss your doctor’s appointments. Do an activity that you enjoy and which relaxes you whether it’s writing in a journal, reading, practicing yoga, or meditation.
- Use respite care. Respite care offers a temporary place for people with chronic medical conditions to stay (usually for a few days/weeks.) This is a great option for a caregiver to rest, take care of personal business, or travel. Many assisted living/skilled care facilities offer respite care, however, don’t wait until the last-minute. These beds fill up quickly especially during the holiday season.
- Look for the positive. Practice gratitude and focus on the positive aspects of your situation. Your loved one may not be the same person but you can still experience moments of joy with each other and create new memories to last your lifetime.
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