Holidays and Memory Loss

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Holidays can be meaningful and enjoyable for someone suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease and for their families. But they can also be very stressful. Today we’d like to talk about the holidays and give some hints on how to find that right balance.

Welcome to the Senior Circle. Where we hope to inspire and help others by providing valuable, relevant information related to caring for an elderly loved one. Hi. My name is Dawn Neely and I’ll be your host. Thank you for joining us.

Traditions and holiday rituals are important to maintain and can really add to the sense of belonging for a person with memory loss. It can be reassuring for someone suffering from memory loss to participate in traditional activities. They may somehow feel a link to the past. It is typically a time of celebration. But there’s also a sense of loss for the way that things used to be. There are demands that come along with the holidays. Time and energy are precious to us as caregivers, but we also know that these activities bring joy and peace to our loved ones. There are some things that we can do to make holiday celebrations and traditions a more relaxing and happy time. We just need to adjust our expectations and maybe modify some of the traditions.

While the holidays call for festive decorations, it might be better to create a calm and safe space by toning down that environment a little bit.

  • Avoid blinking lights, or large decorative displays that may create confusion, and try to avoid having to rearrange a room in order to accommodate the decor.
  • You’ll certainly want to avoid safety hazards like using lit candles or fragile decorations that could be mistaken for edible treats, like artificial fruits. If you put up a tree, you’ll want to secure it to the wall.
  • Play your loved one’s favorite holiday music. You’ll want the volume to be relaxing as opposed to too loud.

Things that you can do to help your loved one enjoy the holiday are: work together.

  • Plan a cookie baking session focusing on the task itself, enjoying each other, rather than focusing on the outcome.
  • Host smaller gatherings. It’s important to keep celebrations quiet and relaxed.
  • Plan gatherings around your loved one’s schedule in order to keep routines as intact as possible.
  • If you’re having guests, provide a quiet place for your loved one to have time alone if needed, or to visit with fewer people at once.
  • If you go to a gathering, it’s best to plan on shorter visits in order to not overwhelm.

It’s important to prepare your family and friends that may visit. Let them know how things have been going by providing an update as to your loved one’s condition.

  • Advise them of any changes in behavior or memory since the last time they saw your loved one so that they can be prepared.
  • Suggest ways that they can encourage communication with your loved one, by listening patiently, and not criticizing repeated statements or errors.

Simplifying celebrations and planning ahead will help create a pleasant holiday experience for you, your family, and your loved one. If you have any questions and would like to chat with us, please don’t hesitate to contact us here at Seniors Helping Seniors at 248-969-4000.

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