Alzheimer’s and Coping with the Holidays
The holiday season is often a time that many of us look forward for visiting and reconnecting with family and friends. Sometimes, however, this season can be sad or stressful for those caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease (AD). These hints are our gift in wishing you an enjoyable holiday season.
Holidays can be meaningful, enriching times for both the person with Alzheimer’s disease and their family. Maintaining (or adapting) old family rituals and traditions helps all family members feel a sense of belonging and family identity. For a person with AD, this link with a familiar past is reassuring and builds self-esteem, i.e. “Look at the beautiful family I created!”
Learn to set your own limits early, and be clear about them with others. You do not have to live up to the expectations of friends or relatives. Your situation is different now.
It may help to encourage family and friends to visit, even if it’s painful for them. Keep the number of persons visiting at one time to a minimum, or try a few people visiting quietly with the person with AD in a separate room. Most people with AD can pull it together for brief periods, if they have adequate private rest in between.
Try some simple holiday preparation with the person with Alzheimer’s disease several days ahead. Just observing your preparations will familiarize him/her with the upcoming festivities; if they participate with you, they experience the pleasure of helping and giving as well as the fun of anticipation and reminiscing.
It may help to prepare potential quiet distractions (a family photo album or a simple repetitive chore like cracking nuts) to use if the person with AD becomes upset or over-stimulated. Over-stimulation can be a common concern amongst people with Alzheimer’s disease.
Try to avoid situations that further confuse or frustrate many people with AD:
- crowds of people who expect the person with AD to remember them
- noise, loud conversations or loud music
- strange or different surroundings
- changes in light intensity – too bright or too dark
- over-indulgence in rich or special food or drink (especially alcohol)
- change in regular routine and sleep patterns
Try to avoid scheduling activities — especially outdoor exercise — early in the day to avoid the fatigue from added activity at the end of a long day. Familiar holiday music, story-telling, singing or church services (even on TV) may be especially enjoyable.