When the holiday season approaches, caregivers of loved ones with dementia have added challenges that can turn a special time of the year into a stressful time. From traveling family members to boisterous celebrations, a number of unique holiday situations can create additional concerns when caring for someone with dementia. These tips for dementia caregivers will help you navigate holiday get-togethers and reduce frustrations for both you and your loved one with dementia.
Prepare in Advance
Dementia caregivers are the most up to date about the daily routines and current health conditions of the person they care for. They know personal preferences better than anyone. As such, you’re able to better manage holiday gatherings to suit your loved one with dementia. Like any dementia care plan, the more control you have early on, the smoother holiday celebrations will go.
- Involve the entire family as far in advance as possible. Plan out a schedule, give your family and guests examples of behaviors to prepare for, and share your perspective of how to care for someone with dementia.
- Limit surprises such as unexpected visitors and activities.
- Pre-pack everything the person with dementia needs for different situations.
- Organize gift-giving in advance so that your loved one with dementia receives gifts that they’re comfortable with, or ones that spark memories.
Help friends and family understand that things may not go as planned, and if sudden changes occur, you’ll guide them with how they might assist.
Create a Safe and Helpful Environment
Fostering a comfortable, safe environment is paramount in dementia care. When family and friends all join in the same place, opportunities for disruption multiply. Your goal for holiday gatherings should be to make the space around your loved one with dementia as calm as possible.
- Tone down holiday decorations. Too many flashing lights or complicated displays can cause confusion.
- Make sure the area is void of safety hazards, including candles, fragile decorations and cluttered areas.
- Assign a quiet place for the person to go for rest during the gathering.
Practice Extra Patience
To dementia caregivers, it’s second nature to practice extreme patience, but it’s worth reminding yourself, family members and friends that a little extra patience goes a long way.
- Simplify conversations and instructions as much as possible for the person with dementia.
- Do your best to avoid changes in the person’s usual routine to make them as comfortable as possible.
- Before guests arrive, update them on changes in behavior since their last visit.
Engage the Person with Dementia
In your experience caring for dementia, you know those with dementia often feel more comfortable in environments they feel like they have some control over. Involving your loved one with dementia in planning and setting up the holiday celebration, or just observing it, allows them to familiarize themselves with the festivities beforehand.
- Give your loved one with dementia simple, limited options of what to wear, what beverage they want at holiday dinner, or other simple decisions to help them feel in control.
- Plan meaningful activities like looking through old family photo albums, replaying favorite holiday movies and songs, and keeping long-held traditions.
- Allow them to be part of the planning process to give them purpose and the pleasure of helping out. It will also help get them get acquainted with the setting.
- Remind friends and family that your loved one with dementia is bound to be confused about present-day happenings. They may believe they are in a different place and time. Instead of trying to correct, remind others that it’s best to simply agree and redirect the conversation.
Creating a safe and comfortable environment for your loved one with dementia also means creating a space where they can focus to the best of their ability. The hustle and bustle that typically comes with holiday gatherings can be a disturbing distraction for your loved one. This year, do your best to curb these distractions where possible.
- Turn off screens and other distractions to help the person with dementia focus more clearly.
- Try to limit the number of visitors present at one time so as not to overwhelm the person with dementia.
- Encourage the entire family to participate in the same activity together. Having everyone focused on the same task when, for example, looking through family albums helps the person with dementia focus.
Care for Yourself
Of all the holiday tips for dementia caregivers, self-care is the most overlooked. The holiday season brings on more risks of caregiver burnout, which runs the risk of ruining your holiday celebration. To avoid burnout, set goals for giving yourself grace.
- Give yourself permission to do only what you can reasonably manage.
- Lean on others for support — it’s the reason you’ve prepared them, after all.
- Set reasonable expectations of what you can contribute to holiday celebrations and what others can do for you.
- Be sure to arrange a break for yourself during the holiday gathering. Ask a family member to take over so you can enjoy the festivities as well.
Memory Care at The Buckingham
At The Buckingham, we know how stressful the holiday season can be when caring for someone with dementia. It’s why our thoughtful approach to memory support is personalized to each individual with the help of the person’s family. From 24-hour support to our Music & Memory® program, our memory support residents find purpose, meaning and joy in each new day.
If the time has come when you’re searching “dementia care near me,” it’s time to visit The Buckingham. To learn more about our trusted community care, memory support residences and our full continuum of care, contact us through our website or call us anytime at 713-309-6934.