The holidays are stressful and often depressing for many of us. Now, imagine navigating this whirlwind of activity and flurry of emotions when you are living with Alzheimer’s Disease! Individuals with dementia respond most favorably to routine, calm, and positivity, all of which can be scarce during the holidays. Couple this holiday stress with months of isolation, increased anxiety, changes in routine, and skyrocketing caregiver stress caused by Covid-19. Despite social distancing and quarantining we can still enjoy the holidays with our loved ones with dementia and even have meaningful and purposeful interactions.
Some tips to promote happy holidays:
- If family members have not seen your loved one in a while, prepare them in advance of the changes that have occurred since their last visit. Repetitive questions and stories, decreased verbalization, not knowing people, wandering or difficulty eating are all examples of changes you should share with family, so they are not shocked and overwhelmed the day of the holiday get together.
- We can involve our loved ones we are caring for with holiday preparations such as simple tasks and crafts like putting ornaments on the tree, stringing popcorn garland or linking paper chains, putting stamps on cards, baking, and decorating cookies, and wrapping gifts.
- They can help you prepare the house by vacuuming, dusting, setting the table, or folding napkins. Whatever their contribution, it is important for us to focus on their efforts and enjoyment rather than the finished products.
- Maintain a schedule as much as possible to give your loved one some sense of normalcy. Schedule holiday events earlier in the day when your loved ones are typically more alert rather than later in the day which tends to be more challenging for them. Plan for rest periods and keep bedtimes the same.
- Engage in activities that involve reminiscing such as sharing family stories, looking at scrapbooks or photo albums, or singing Christmas carols. These are all activities that tap into your loved ones' long-term memory, which is often preserved much longer during the course of the disease.
- If you and your loved ones are feeling stifled and the walls are closing in, take a neighborhood walk or drive to see the Christmas lights. The fresh air change of scenery and holiday magic will be a great stress reliever for you both.