Visiting Angels, Punta Gorda Blog

How to Celebrate the Holidays with a Loved One Living with Dementia

The holiday season is upon us and for many it’s an exciting time of year. We ready our homes to welcome relatives, we search stores for that perfect gift for our loved ones, and we anticipate another season of celebrating tradition. However, for some, the holidays beckon anxiety and disappointment, especially for those who have a loved one living with a dementia diagnosis. What used to be a jolly time of year has turned into a season of frustration, guilt, or even sorrow, as you watch your loved one’s memory slip away.

You may be struggling with feelings of sadness knowing that this might be the last year that your loved one is truly aware of the holiday season and is able to participate in celebration. You may be feeling pulled in multiple directions, as you struggle to find the balance between office parties, your own to-do list, while being available to care for your loved one. Feelings of anger or resentment towards siblings can even arise, especially if they live out-of-town or aren’t available to assist with the care of your aging parents. If any of this rings true for you, know that you are not alone and that these feelings are completely celebrating holidays with one who has dementianormal. To help keep your days merry and bright this holiday season, here are a few tips to help you celebrate the holidays with your loved one living with dementia.

Maintain Routine

People living with dementia thrive on routine. Routines are often associated with our procedural memory, or how we do things, and our long-term memory. Dementia makes it difficult to learn new things, so keeping an established, consistent routine is calming and reassuring for the individual. When the holidays arrive, so often we drag our loved one living with dementia into an unfamiliar routine. We may expect them to wake up earlier or keep them out past their usual bedtime. This year try to stick as close to your loved one’s usual routine as possible. Give them time and space to finish their morning routine before you visit or take them out for the day. Be mindful of the time as your celebration carries on into the later hours of the evening and make plans to escort your loved one home before it’s well past their bedtime.

Let Them Help

Find ways to include your loved one in the holiday preparation on the day of your family celebration, as well as on the days leading up to it. The more you can ingrain the holiday season and upcoming events for your celebration, the more prepared your loved one will be to participate in the day’s events. Let them help bake cookies or wrap presents, ask them to help fold laundry or sweep the floors before company arrives, invite them over to assist you with decorating the house for the season. Find simple jobs that they can successfully complete and that won’t frustrate them. People living with dementia like to help and feel useful and are often calmed by when performing familiar tasks.

Create a Retreat

If your holiday plans include a large, loud family get-together, make sure that your loved one has a space to retreat when the noise or crowd becomes overwhelming. Prepare a guest room where they can nap, rest, browse through a magazine, watch TV, or simply enjoy a moment of peace and quiet. Show them the room before everyone arrives and reassure them that they can retreat whenever they desire. Keep grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and even well intentioned extended family, away when the room is occupied by hanging a “Resting Zone” sign on the door and closing the door. Provide a few snacks and water to keep hunger at bay, which can be another trigger for a person living with dementia.

Keep It Simple

Finally, if it’s possible, keep the holiday celebration short and simple for your loved one living with dementia. Long days filled with family and friends may energize you, but such days can be draining for a person living with dementia. Consider having the extended family celebrate with your loved one as individual families over a few days, instead of everyone celebrating all at once. Consider including your loved one during morning events, when they are more alert and refreshed, instead of pulling them completely out of their normal routine. Also consider celebrating when it’s best for them, either on the actual holiday or earlier in the month, so that the holiday is truly special and memorable for everyone.

The holidays are a magical time, but they can also be a very stressful time, especially if your loved one has dementia. Fortunately, at Visiting Angels Punta Gorda, we pride ourselves in being a leader when it comes to Alzheimer’s and dementia care. Our exceptional companion caregivers make it possible for those living with Alzheimer’s and dementia to age in place. Research continues to show that familiar surroundings play an important role in the well-being of those living with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Our specialized Alzheimer’s and dementia care services allow your loved one to remain where they are most comfortable and happy. Give yourself the gift of partnering with us this holiday season and allow us to take on some of the burden you are shouldering when it comes to caring for your loved one living with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Please contact us today by calling, 941-347-8288 Punta Gorda or 239-226-1620 Lee County, so that we can help your holiday season turn bright again.

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