For many people, holidays bring opportunities for family gatherings, extra activity and even travel. Holidays can also be filled with stress,disappointment and sadness when you are a caregiver.
Below are some tips to help you not only survive the holidays but enjoy them as well.
1) Keep in mind that you don't have to do everything as you have always done it.
Choose the activities and traditions that are most important and let some of the others go. Instead of preparing a huge meal alone, ask family to bring their favorite dishes or even purchase prepared foods. Use disposable cookware and table ware to lesson clean up time. Ask for and accept help from your family and friends.
2) Prepare family and friends in advance.
Be honest with them about the changes to your loved one's behavior and communication ability. Give them tips on how to best relate to your loved one. It may be a good idea to send a letter or email to family and friends who will be visiting.
3) Keep decorations to a minimum.
Use non flashing lights on trees and be wary of decorations that move or make sounds as these may be frightening to the person with Alzheimer's. Be careful to place extension cords where they won't pose a tripping hazard.
4) Stick to the classics.
Play classic holiday music and show classic movies. These may evoke happy memories for your loved one.
5) Plan activities everyone can participate in.
Go for a walk, make paper chain decorations, ice cookies, tell stories, or sing familiar songs.
6) Plan small gatherings in your home rather than attending gatherings elsewhere.
This enables your loved one to remain in familiar surroundings and also allows them to retreat to their room if they get overwhelmed by the noise and activity. If you do visit another home, set up a quiet area in advance and watch for signs of agitation in your loved one. If you notice these, take your loved one to the quiet place to relax. Plan visits around your loved one's schedule avoiding nap times or late afternoon if you experience sun-downing.
7) If you will be travelling...
Try to travel during the best time of day for your loved one. Never leave them alone and be sure to have identification on them. Consider an identification bracelet like Alzheimer's Tennessee's FOUND bracelet. Alert travel authorities in advance that your loved one has dementia and arrange any assistance you may need such as wheelchairs or transportation between airport gates. Allow extra time to avoid rushing and keep routines as close to normal as possible.
8) Self Care
Finally, arrange for family, friends or an in home care agency to sit with your loved one while you shop, attend holiday gatherings and events or prepare for your family gathering. Give your self the gift of self care this holiday season. It will serve you well into the new year.