Thanksgiving is around the corner and the holiday season is about to begin. We all know that holidays can be challenging, especially when celebrating with aging family members who have dementia or those who may be overwhelmed with changes in the regular routine. The suggestions below may help in planning less stressful and more satisfying holiday gatherings.
- If possible, limit the number of guests at the meal. People with dementia have trouble processing and tracking information, so if there a lot of people, they may have extra difficulty following a conversation.
- If possible, schedule your family dinner around the needs of the person with dementia. It may be best to celebrate earlier in the day as many people with dementia experience, “sun downing,” a condition which leads to increased confusion and agitation later in the day.
- Let the person with dementia help in preparing for the holiday as appropriate, perhaps by stirring a mixture or setting a table. Everybody likes to feel useful and connected.
- Make sure there is a quiet space where the person can go to get away from the commotion. The quiet space should be a room that is not being used for anything else that day.
- Holidays are wonderful times to reminisce. Engage the person with dementia in discussions about past holidays and family exploits but don’t ask “do you remember when….?”
- Look at photo albums. This is a great activity and trigger for conversation.
- Designate someone (e.g. grandchildren, the aide) who can spend quieter time or take a walk with the person with dementia.
- Give the Freedom caregiver as much information about the day, in advance, so that she can be prepared to help as much as possible. Let your Freedom caregiver take the lead in tending to your loved one’s needs, including getting dressed and ready for the day, getting food, going to the bathroom and taking breaks as necessary.
- If the celebration is taking place outside your family member’s home, make arrangements for the person to go home when needed, even if it is before the celebration has ended.
- Be kind to yourself. Dementia, and life, are unpredictable. It is okay if things don’t go exactly as planned.
Thank you, again, for your faith in Freedom Home Healthcare. We are grateful to have you as part of our extended family during the holiday season and throughout the year. On behalf of the entire Freedom team, may I wish you and your family meaningful and festive holidays.