Holidays are a time for family gatherings, fun traditions, and the holiday spirit. Unfortunately, holidays can also be stressful for those caring for someone who has been diagnosed with dementia. Involving and caring for your loved one during the festivities can be overwhelming, and it can often lead to caregiver guilt. Fortunately, there are tips to make this time of year more manageable and realistic.
1. Set realistic expectations:
It may be difficult to experience a change in your loved one’s personality. However, it is important to remember that your loved one is not acting out on purpose and they are not trying to be difficult. They have a disease which is beyond their control, and they are doing the best they can with what they know. Keeping this in mind can help alleviate your frustrations and help you take on the holidays with a different mindset.
2. Communicate your needs:
Communicate with others when you need support or help during the holidays. Whether you need guests to bring food or help with respite care, ask for help when you need it. It may also be important to remind visitors that your loved one may not remember them or may act differently. This will help others stay in the loop and understand how to be a better support system to both of you.
3. Stay in their comfort zone:
Stick with familiar activities and routines your loved one is comfortable with. This will decrease anxiety, stress, and confusion that unfamiliar locations or people can cause. Creating a quiet space with familiar pictures or objects where your loved one can relax can help them feel comfortable when there is a lot happening around them. Playing soft, familiar music can create a relaxing environment, and music has been known to positively affect seniors dealing with dementia.
4. Avoid over-stimulation:
Holidays can be a busy time; parties, family gatherings, and shopping trips can make a long day. Loud noises and large crowds can be overwhelming and exhausting for individuals dealing with dementia. Instead, plan smaller gatherings and events which will minimize confusion and agitation.
5. Involve your loved one:
Although your loved one may be dealing with dementia, they are still very capable of assisting with tasks – and enjoying them! You understand what your loved one would enjoy and what would overwhelm them. If they like cooking, set simple tasks with clear instructions to involve them in the process. If they enjoy making crafts, make fun crafts the whole family can create and enjoy. Having low-key activities are a great way to include your loved one and help alleviate boredom.
6. Take YOUR time:
It is not uncommon to feel the need for a break from your loved one. You are spending a lot of time and energy as a family caregiver, and you may experience caregiver burnout. This is where it is important to ask for help to alleviate some of the pressure of caring for your loved one.
It can be a struggle to find a healthy balance which allows you to care for your loved one throughout the holiday season. However, with planning and communication, you can have a guilt-free holiday which successfully includes your loved one. After all, spending time with loved ones is the most important part of the holidays!