Alzheimer’s and the Holidays
Another year has passed and the Holiday season is upon us once again; snow is falling, family members are calling, and music fills the air. However, this year will be more difficult than years past if your parent or family member struggles with Alzheimer’s. It doesn’t have to be difficult and we want you to be able to fully enjoy your holiday season. Here are some tips on how to make a your family time memorable, even when memory fails.
10 Alzheimer’s Holiday Tips
- Focus on the present holiday rather than longing for the past and try to appreciate the small moments of joy and laughter in each day
- If you’re cooking a meal or need to make a last-minute run to the store, enlist help from a family member, friend, or care professional to be with your loved one while you get things done. Suggest a walk, a card game, or streaming a favorite old movie.
- Bring photos of past holiday gatherings to go through with your loved one. Even with serious short-term memory problems, your loved one may be able to recall old memories.
- Don’t try to point out “the truth” or correct a loved one who has Alzheimer’s or other dementia. What they believe is their truth. Trying to set them straight may upset everyone.
- If you’re having trouble following what your loved one is saying, employ the improvisational comedy technique of responding, “Yes, and…” Then wait patiently. This suggests you agree with them and encourages them to say more. For someone with Alzheimer’s, hearing their own voice is validating and even calming.
- Appreciate that you’re creating new memories, however imperfect, right now for yourself and your family.
- Keep a sense of humor. No matter how dark things seem, there’s always a way—and a need—to laugh.
- If your parent/grandparent/spouse becomes agitated or says something aggressive or unkind, take a deep breath and remind yourself it’s the disease talking. The best approach for soothing is with love. Look him or her in the eyes and reassure them, “I love you, and it’s going to be okay.” If another adult is there, walk away for a few minutes to clear your head and reset your own emotions.
- Make a playlist of old songs or tune into an oldies station and start a sing along. Singing or simply listening to old favorite songs is calming and can trigger happy memories and good feelings.
- Be sure to say “hello,” and “goodbye,” even if you’re not sure they know who you are—or that you’re there. Even in late-stages of dementia, your loved one may be able to perceive more than they can let on. Always aim for a caring, genuine connection. You’ll feel better—and your loved one may feel better too.
Alzheimer’s can make any day difficult, but hopefully these tips will help you during the Holiday Season. Remember, your self-care will be the most important thing on your to-do list: ask for help, know what you can and can’t do, and be clear about your boundaries. If you take care of yourself, caring for your struggling loved one will be all the easier.