Let’s face it, the holidays are always a little stressful, aren’t they?
I find that if I acknowledge that right up front then I am better prepared for what may arise.
Whether you are hosting Christmas festivities at your house, you are going down the street to see relatives, or maybe you’re driving across the country trying to make it home before it is officially Christmas!
If you are taking care of someone with dementia there are ways that you can make the holidays a lot less stressful!
One of the best things that I’ve come across is the family email.
Sending an email to the ones who will be gathering together explaining the things that might be upsetting or confusing is your first line of defense. This especially handy for relatives that may not be around most of the time. Sending one email to multiple people can save you time, can diffuse the tension that might arise later while it also gives relatives that live far away a heads up on what to expect.
Try to have the celebration in your loved one’s surroundings or at least somewhere they are familiar with.
If you would normally have an evening celebration consider changing it to a brunch/lunch/breakfast instead of at night. If you can’t change it then make sure the room is well-lit and try and have it in a home your loved one is familiar with.
Bring out those old family traditions, that familiarity is very important.
Chances are if it’s a tradition that ‘s been around for awhile the person with dementia might remember at least parts of it. If you would normally sing carols around the piano on Christmas Eve then continue to sing! Even if they forget the actual act they remember how it made them feel and therefore has a calming effect.
Let your loved one help you get things ready, as their abilities allow.
Wrapping presents, cooking food, helping with decorations, setting the table. It doesn’t have to be perfect. The year before last we had one of every placemat in the buffet around the table and you know what? It was beautiful. Helping will allow your loved one to feel involved in the whole process. Reassure them often, explaining what will happen next. Try to keep the chaos to a minimum but in most cases, children have their own special effects.
A holiday is still a holiday whether it is celebrated at home or at a care facility. Here are some ways to celebrate together if your loved one is in a memory care center:
- Consider joining your loved one in any facility-planned holiday activities
- Bring a favorite holiday food to share
- Sing holiday songs and ask if other residents can join in
- Read a favorite holiday story or poem out loud
- Look through old holiday pictures together
- Talk about your memories, but don’t include the “Do you remember? Just keep it at, “I remember…”
Just remember things are going to happen and expecting perfection will only ruin the holidays for you and your loved one. Enjoy the time you have together and give yourself break. Don’t sweat the small stuff!