Managing the Holidays and Dementia
It is that time of the year, a time to look back and be thankful, and a time to look forward and still be grateful. Give thanks for all the good, and the bad, the necessities that have made us look deeper and appreciate even more what we learnt during those difficult moments. A time to gather as a family and celebrate the holidays.
In all shapes and sizes of families, we see that all have that peculiar aspect that differentiates them from the family next door. For some families, that little detail is Dementia, a condition that seems to be spreading as the generations grow older in the world. Have you thought how you would plan your holidays if one of your loved ones had dementia? Many families do, and here are ways on how they still make these celebrations memorable and happy occasions.
Depending on the stage of the person’s dementia, the holiday celebrations might not present many changes or could be entirely different as they would have to be adapted to certain conditions related to dementia. Either way it is a time full of emotions for the person living with dementia, which is why it might be best for all those living in the household and guests to know what to expect. Even if those coming might not notice any changes it is best to call or send letters letting your relatives be aware of the possible things that might happen when they come to visit. As part of fighting the stigma that revolves around the disease, make sure everyone understands that these behavior changes, as hard to understand as they may be, are caused by the condition, not the person.
As part of discussing what to expect you might want to call up a family meeting to discuss the holiday plans and have everyone on the same page. If you are the primary caregiver, do not complicate things more than they already are; know what and when to delegate some of the responsibilities.
Keep in mind what are the triggers for any unwanted behavior on the person living with dementia, for example, if sundowning is a problem, you might want to consider doing a holiday lunch instead of a holiday dinner. If you still prefer scheduling the celebrations at night be sure the room has proper lighting and the person is always well fed and not too tired.
Try keeping things as the person with dementia remembers them. Do activities that encourage past memories like going around the table giving thanks or singing old Christmas carols. If you can, involve the person with dementia to participate in the planning and preparations, even the simplest things helps them feel useful around the house. Even if it is a special day, try staying in schedule with meals and stick to the daily routines.
As for the gifts, think of useful things for the person with dementia. Clothes are always important but also some medical devices like daily living aids or bath and shower safety supplies make good gift ideas this holiday season.
And for you as the caregiver, do not forget to give yourself a special time to rest and do what you like to do. Add respite care to your wish list and indulge in things you like without any feeling of guilt or stress bothering you.
The holidays are here, it is still important to get together and cherish your group of favorite and special people. Dementia is only a condition, not your loved one living with it, deep down they are still happy to share these special moments with their family and wish you the very best as their most precious gift.