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Holiday Tips for Caregivers and Dementia Patients

- Friday, December 20, 2013

The holidays pose special challenges for people with Alzheimer's and those caring for them. When planning family events, focus on what is safe, manageable and meaningful to that person.

Adjust expectations, and avoid taking on too much. It can wear on you and the person with Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Don't plan to include the person in a full day of activities. Everything in moderation. If your loved one doesn't do well in large groups or is leery of crowds, stay away crowds.

Here are tips for caregivers and others as the holidays approach:

  • If you're planning to visit a person with Alzheimer's, limit the group to two or three people at a time; a larger group, in one visit, can be overwhelming and confusing.
  • Inform those who don't see the person regularly about predictable disabilities.
  • At holiday events, stick to the person's mealtime and sleeping routine as much as possible, no matter where you're at.
  • Appoint a "holiday partner" to look after the person's needs.
  • Designate a quiet place where the person can retreat to if things get hectic.
  • If the person can no longer leave the assisted care facility, consider celebrating there and bringing Christmas decorations in, as space allows.
  • Watch for signs of physical or emotional stress.

There's a lot of grief at this time of year for those dealing with Alzheimer's. People in the early stages of the disease, who realize they have it, may become more agitated or irritable or experience changes in eating and sleeping habits.

Caregivers also need to take care of themselves, here are a few suggestions:

  • Ask for help.
  • Shop for gifts online or through catalogues to limit your stress.
  • Give yourself permission to say "no" to requests or invitations.
  • Consider counselling or joining a support group.

For people coping with Alzheimer's in their families, things are different. The holiday isn't the same as it was, but that doesn't mean it's necessarily bad.

Grand Forks Herald