As is my custom this time of year, I make it a point to remind everyone that is in the Alzheimer’s caregiving role how important it is to be prepared for the Holidays. The truth be told, the things I’m going to be sharing with you today you can use year around whenever a big gathering is on the agenda.
There are some very important things you need to always remember in your role as caregiver and the fact that they often don’t process well and become confused and anxious is one of them. You should know them better than anyone so you should be able to gauge whether or not they’ll be able to deal with all that can make the Holidays special or terrifying for them.
My house on Christmas Eve is a wonderful place to be. My two daughters are there with their husbands and our four grand daughters and it’s a very busy place. Wonderful food, Holiday Music, the opening of some of the presents and the grand finale which is my daughter Ebbie turning off the Holiday music and turning on the dance music to dance with her daughter and nieces. My wife and I delight in it all but if we had a loved one there with Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia, I’m confident they wouldn’t feel the same way. You see, we’re able to separate the music from the conversation or the laughter from the music; they are not. It’s all coming at them at once and that can be overwhelming to say the least. It may be difficult to accept that Mom or Grandpa can no longer celebrate like they used to but there are many things you can do to make it special for all of you.
-Let them help you make cookies by adding the milk or flour to the bowl.
-Host small relatively quiet gatherings.
-Avoid disruptions when you’re doing an activity with them. Things won’t go well if you’re looking at an old holiday photo album and you have to leave to stir the pot, take cookies out of the oven, put cookies in the oven etc.
-If things do get to be a little too much for them on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve or Christmas Day or on Passover, July 4th and so on, then make sure you have a quiet place for them to go to.
-Make sure your visitors understand the issues your loved one may have.
-If you take them out, make the outings brief and don’t overwhelm them with a hectic Holiday Bazaar.
-Be careful of decorations that look like real food as well as burning real candles and blinking lights.
-Be prepared to know what will take them to their “happy place” just in case you need to redirect them.
-Are they staying the night with you? Do you have a night light and will they be able to find the bathroom?
-If they decide they want “to go home” make sure that someone is in good enough shape to safely get them there. They may rather be in their own home or assisted living community or even skilled community if they don’t feel safe.
I mentioned earlier that you are the one that should know them best so don’t be afraid to ask yourself if taking them out of their comfortable environment, where they feel safe, is really what’s best? You may want to consider bringing them to your home in the afternoon and doing some special things with them like reviewing holiday cards or making decorations and then returning them to where they feel safe before the celebratory games begin.
I understand that it might be difficult for you to modify your favorite traditions but remember, it’s about them, not about us.
Questions? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Remember, Join the Journey.