The holiday season can be a little less happy for people who have a family member with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. Visiting loved ones with short-term memory problems can be a sad time for family members, and if it has been a while since you’ve seen your loved one – it’s possible new symptoms have developed such as speech problems, balance, or personality changes. If your loved one with dementia or Alzheimer’s lives in your home, the increase in visitors and changes in the daily routine can prove stressful and overwhelming. There are things you can do to relieve stress for your loved one during the holiday season and to help prepare other family and friends who may not have much experience with individuals experiencing Alzheimer’s or dementia symptoms:
How to Improve Communication With a Person Who Has Alzheimer’s or Dementia
If out of town family and friends are visiting, or family that simply hasn’t been around as often are stopping by for the holidays – they may find it difficult to communicate with the individual with Alzheimer’s or dementia symptoms. Share the following tips for everyone to improve communication and reduce stress:
- Have all guests wear a name tag to make it easier for the person with Alzheimer’s to call people by name and remember who everyone is
- Do not ask questions such as, “You know what that is, right?” or “remember that?” as that can feel negative and hurtful to your loved one
- When speaking to someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s, always position yourself in front of him or her before speaking so they can see you
- Maintain eye contact
- Call your loved one by name, or if appropriate, “Dad,” “Mom,” “Uncle,” “Grandpa,” etc.
- Have patience with your loved one and encourage him or her to continue to speak even if it seems difficult or they are struggling to put the memories together
- Don’t argue details or correct your loved one when they are telling a story, and you don’t have to remind them someone has passed away if they don’t seem to remember
- Do not talk about the person with your other family and friends as if he or she is not in the room with you
- Consider pulling out old family photo albums and letting the family member with Alzheimer share his or her memories of them
Tips to Enjoy the Holiday Season
- If your loved one is in a memory care facility or living with a caregiver that you plan to visit over the holidays, there are several things you can do to relieve stress and anxiety when visiting:
- Remember that caregiving is a 24/7 job responsibility. The caregiver is managing everything from budgeting to cleaning, cooking, personal hygiene, and ensuring the safety and security of the individual with Alzheimer’s. For some caregivers, they’re doing this in addition to caring for their own family and a full-time job! They are going to be stressed, exhausted, and on edge when visitors stop in – do your best to offer assistance and provide a break for the caregiver.
- Spend time with your loved one and give the full-time caregiver a day or two off. Provide movie tickets or a restaurant gift certificate.
- Offer to run errands, such as go to the pharmacy, do the grocery shopping or any other tasks the caregiver may need.
- If needed, help with home repairs, gardening, yard work, or any other task that is often pushed to the side when people are providing round-the-clock care for a loved one.
- Take the individual with Alzheimer’s or dementia out of the house or memory care facility for a while. Maybe bring them to the salon or barber shop; take them to the coffee shop, or a bookstore, or a park. The caregiver can enjoy some alone time at home, and the loved one with Alzheimer’s can get a change of scenery and spend time with someone other than his or her full-time caregiver.
The holidays are a time of being with friends and family, but they can be stressful, especially if someone you love is experiencing dementia or Alzheimer’s symptoms. A little planning can relieve stress and help everyone enjoy the holiday season together.
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