The holidays can be a tough time for those with dementia and their families. I recently came across some helpful tips from the Alzheimer’s Association to help those with dementia and their families still enjoy the season. It can be a shock to many family members who may have not visited in a while to see the decline in a loved one with dementia. And you always want to make the holidays a cheerful time for those coping with dementia, along with their families.
You may not see much change in a loved with experiencing onset dementia, but those with the beginning stages of dementia usually start to withdraw and not want to socialize. Still, check in with your loved ones and always offer for them to join in on your gatherings. Discuss options with them and ask them about their feelings about attending. You never want to force them, but want them to feel welcomed. For those with the middle and late stages of dementia, family activities and gatherings might be too much, but still, never leave them out. Think about maybe just having people visit your loved one, in small groups and for short amounts of time.
Always be honest and upfront with your guests. Let them know what to expect if a loved one with dementia will be attending. They may not notice too many changes early on, but they might notice that conversing with them can be difficult. Remind them to remain patient when the loved one starts repeating words and getting confused. When guests are aware of the situation, they can help make the person feel comfortable and social.
For those experiencing middle to late stages of dementia, cognitive changes will be more noticeable. It might be challenging for some to accept how much they have declined. It is a good idea to share the status in a letter and email. You can also include a list of tips, like these. Encourage your guests to be open, respectful and understanding.
Some traditions will be good for those with dementia, where others might not be the best. Also, don’t be let down when your loved one might not remember or understand traditions. Be patient and make the experience fun. You might even have to change some traditions up to help those with dementia to adapt easily. Try to limit the sweets and offer sugar-free candy and always be careful with the decorations you choose. Fake food could be mistaken as real food and blinking lights could cause confusion.
It is still important to make sure your loved one feels involved during the holiday season. You might need to adjust plans. For example, if they are living in a facility, try to join in on the activities they have. Bring goodies and games to include everyone. Sing songs, share stories and even partake in traditions with a group of residents. This will help your loved one stay social and involved during the season.
The entire team at SMART Brain Aging wishes everyone and their families a very Happy Holiday season. For more information on helping those with dementia adjust to the holidays, visit the Alzheimer’s Association.
By reading this blog, I acknowledge that I am not creating or entering a clinical or medical relationship with Dr. DenBoer and SMART Brain Aging. I understand that all materiel included in this blog is strictly for informational purposes only. The content is to provide me with information and knowledge and I will not substitute it for diagnosis, treatment or medical advice. I am aware the author does not hold a medical degree or license and is simply providing me additional information on a variety of health topics.