Holiday Tips For Alzheimer’s Caregivers

Some 5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s, and more than 13 million family members care for them. Families in every town, in every state across the country that are dealing with the realities of Alzheimer’s disease during holiday season.  And my family is one of them as we care for our Mother, during this most wonderful time of the year.

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Caregiving is plenty trying at any time however, the holidays can bring extra emotions with family celebrations, holiday parties and the hoopla that the end of year can bring.

alzheimersawarenessFormed in 1980, the Alzheimer’s Association advances research to end Alzheimer’s and dementia while enhancing care for those living with the disease.  From the association’s research and the personal experience of our family here are some caregiving tips to make the holidays more manageable.

1.Set Realistic Expectations About Your Relatives’ Current Condition

Feeding Alzheimer'sIt may have been awhile since relatives and friends have seen the person with Alzheimer’s or dementia.  During that time changes could have taken place in the person’s cognitive abilities.

Alert visitors in a phone call or email prior to the visit so they will know what to expect.   Ask for their patience in not interrupting or correcting; giving the person with the condition time to finish his or her thoughts.

2.Involve The Person With Alzheimer’s or Dementia

Understand the delicate balance between involvement and overload for the person with Alzheimer’s or dementia.

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For my mother, with the exception of church, large groups with lots of conversation are difficult for her to follow.  However, what we have found that music in the singing and playing of holiday songs both old and new brings her great comfort.

Research has also found that keeping a normal routine for the person is good.  While that may be impossible during the rush of the holidays, our family has found that planning breaks for Mother with a quiet time and place for her to get away from the action of the party and all of those people and conversations works best.

3.Encourage Smart Gift Giving

Gifts2By all means, the person with Alzheimer’s or dementia should share in the magic of receiving a gift during the holiday season.

Recommended gifts include: An identification bracelet (available through MedicAlert® + Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return®), comfortable clothing, audiotapes of favorite music, videos and photo albums.

For the caregiver of a person with Alzheimer’s or dementia, I can suggest no better gift than the gift of respite care.  Consider giving a gift certificate to the nail salon where both the caregiver and the loved one can be pampered at the same time.  Or give a gift certificate for a house cleaning, providing needed relief from household chores. Last year, a trusted family friend offered to look after my mother for one afternoon each month, giving my sister an opportunity for much needed rest and relaxation.

4.Tips For Loved Ones Living In A Care Facility

While our family has not made the difficult decision of placing our mother in a care facility, I have friends in the Alzheimer’s – Dementia community who have.  They share these holiday care tips: 

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  • Never forget the holidays are still to be celebrated regardless of the location.
  • Join your loved one at facility-planned holiday activities
  • Bring the person a favorite holiday food to share
  • Visit your loved one on Christmas Day and other holidays

Final Thoughts –You Are Not Alone

Alzheimer's in the windIn the midst of the festive frenzy of people, the holidays can be lonely for the caregiver of a person with Alzheimer’s or dementia.

The Alzheimer’s Association and the millions of us who have the honor of caring for a person with Alzheimer’s or dementia understand your loneness and we pledge to help you.

Go to Alzheimer’s Association webpage alz.org  Or call the 24/7 Alzheimer’s / Dementia Helpline at 800.272.3900 for help.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and thanks for all you do for your loved ones.

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