CELEBRATING THE HOLIDAYS AS A CAREGIVER
Alzheimer's disease and other dementias do not change a person’s need for love and
affection, but it changes many aspects of nearly every relationship. These diseases have a deep impact not only on those who are diagnosed, but also on the people who are closest to them. Children of a parent with dementia may become caregivers and partners of the person with dementia see their role change.
As the disease progresses, family members may find the changing roles tough to accept. It may become harder when roles change in some ways, but not in others. When this happens, it can lead to some confusion about how to act. It can take time to figure out just who will do what.
It is important to remember that different people react to the same situation in different ways. Some people will not be helpful at all and will put a distance between them and the family. Some people find strengths that they never knew they had.
It is important that the host set their own limits and be clear about them with others. It is important not to have to live up to the expectations of friends or relatives. The situation is different now.
If this is the first visit since the person with Alzheimer’s became severely impaired, inform people ahead of time what they can expect. The memory-impaired person may not remember guests’ names or relationships but can still enjoy their company. Also inform them of new behaviors like eating with their fingers or hallucinations, so they are prepared.
Encourage friends and family to visit even if it’s difficult. Limit the number of visitors at any one time. Plan visits when the person usually is at his or her best. Virtual visits through video or phone calls are also a great way to connect over the holiday season.
Consider simplifying the holidays around the home. For example, rather than cooking an elaborate dinner, consider a smaller dinner with close family. Instead of elaborate decorations, consider choosing a few select items.
Try to steer clear from loud noises, loud conversations, loud music, lighting that is too bright or too dark, and having too much rich food or drink (or alcohol).
When receiving invitations to events that the person with Alzheimer’s cannot attend, the caregiver should consider going. Perhaps a friend or family member could spend time with the person while the caregiver is out.
SAFETY TIPS FROM THE NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF HEALTH
Holiday decorations, such as Christmas trees, lights, or menorahs, should be secured so that they do not fall or catch on fire. Anything flammable should be monitored at all times, and extra precautions should be taken so that lights or anything breakable are fixed firmly, correctly, and out of the way of those with Alzheimer's disease. Candles should never be lit without supervision. When not in use, they should be put away. Also, try to avoid clutter, especially in walkways, during the holidays. For more home safety tips, visit Home Safety and Alzheimer’s disease.
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Sources: National Institute of Health