‘Tis the season when it may not always be calm, but it surely can be bright. Navigating this time of year can be tough for everyone, but especially when you have a loved one who has Alzheimer’s or dementia. Families often wonder what to include their loved one in on- all of it, some of it, none of it. It’s tough to decide, especially when good old guilt contributes to the conversation. Rest assured this is normal. Often, it’s the changes and the more apparent aging of your loved one that makes it especially hard. In order to have the happiest of holidays this year, go ahead and set your expectations aside- for your loved one and yourself. It’s going to be fine if they need to leave early, or if their table manners aren’t perfect. It’s okay to have a different plan this year or if you have to change the plan, but make sure to at least put in some planning!
Here are a few quick tips to consider to help make the most of your quality time this year:
Plan lunch, not dinner. Get your loved one home early. Kick guilt to the curb when it comes to calling it a day. They don’t, I repeat, they don’t have to be included in everything. It’ll be a big day and tiring. Saying goodbyes will be easier for everyone if you get them home before the sun goes down.
Turn off the music. Or the tv for that matter. Or maybe even both! With all the conversation, food, kids running around, fire places crackling, there’s a lot of stimulation. Cut down where you can to help create a more peaceful environment.
Turn on the lights. We all love to light the candles, turn on the Christmas tree, and dim the lights. It just screams Christmas. It also asks for falls or agitation. Remember Alzheimer’s affects your whole brain, including your vision, not just your memory.
Back off the booze. Holiday spirits come along with the holiday season for many, but alcohol doesn’t mix well with medications, and it only increases their odds for a UTI later. If your loved one just can’t go without, try opting for an alcohol removed wine like Fre, or adding sparkling water for more hydration.
Don’t forget the meds! It’s easy to get busy and lose track of time. Set an alarm to help keep your loved one on schedule.
Reminisce. It’s the perfect time to talk about holiday traditions, old memories, and to pull out photo albums. And it’s the perfect activity for your loved one.
Remember, the holiday season is a time for joy and peace. I hope that with these few tips and reminders it helps bring you just that.
May you be filled with joy in spending time with your loved one, however much it may be. And may you feel peace knowing that you’re doing the best you can. And that folks, is more than enough, and what the Christmas spirit is all about.
Helen Porter, MS, CTRS, CADDCT