Holidays are when friends and families come together and celebrate favorite traditions. Managing memory loss in a loved one during the holidays is not something every family can be prepared for.
Regrettably, this time of cheer can be especially challenging for those loved ones and families living with Alzheimer’s and dementia; however, with a little love and planning, you can help both your loved one and the rest of the family enjoy a fun and memorable holiday.
Be Willing to Modify Your Traditions
Your loved one and family caregivers, living with Alzheimer’s, are going to need friends and family to be a little bit flexible. We might need to adjust the way we’ve always done it.
Family traditions might need a little modification to accommodate the changes these family members are experiencing, at the hands of this disease.
In the early stages of memory loss, changes in your loved one are often minor and hard to detect. Sadly, that doesn’t mean the disease isn’t already stressing them.
If you notice your loved one becoming more withdrawn, less comfortable socializing or having difficulties in following conversations, it might be time to start adjusting your family gatherings.
Here are some easy modifications that can help those living with memory loss.
- Reduce the size of your family gatherings. Break large family gatherings into smaller, more intimate celebrations
- Shorten the amount of time the whole family is gathered together
- Create an area that is quieter and slightly tucked away from the larger gathering. Encourage family members to engage with your loved one or two at a time, and focus only on socializing with them, during those moments
- Schedule your gathering for earlier in the day and make sure your area is well-lit, preferably with natural light
It’s essential to be mindful of things that are challenging or triggering to loved ones with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Making these little changes can make a big difference for your loved one and family enjoying their company.
Educate Friends and Family About Alzheimer’s
Making these subtle changes are harder if your guests don’t understand memory loss and the changes that your loved one is experiencing.
Take the time to inform your guest about your loved one’s memory loss and what changes in behavior they might expect. Many friends and family members may be unaware that your loved one is suffering this degenerative disease, especially if they’re not around day-to-day.
In the early phase of memory loss, even close friends and family might not notice the subtle signs and become unnecessarily frustrated with behaviors that are a result of the disease, and not controllable by your loved one.
In later stages of this disease, these same close friends and family may become upset because your loved one can’t recognize them or become anxious around once familiar faces.
These changes can be hard to accept and cause stress on both your loved one and guests. Spending a little time educating can go a long way in making your celebrations more relaxed and enjoyable.
Often loved ones living with Alzheimer’s were once the center of your family traditions – hosting, preparing the feast, and entertaining. Unfortunately, as this disease takes hold of them, it’s essential to shift those expectations to other family members.
The same goes for family caregivers. These precious folks are likely to be in need of respite care than another big responsibility. Do your best to adjust your traditions to give them a break. Get other friends and family members to step up and allow them to enjoy holiday gatherings without the need to take care of anything or anyone.
Involve Your Loved One
Whether in the early or late stages of memory loss, it’s always helpful to involve your loved one in the planning and preparing of holiday gatherings.
In the early stages, your loved one can often tell you the things they do and don’t like, things that make them anxious or uncomfortable. You can discuss the plans for the celebration and get their input or even discuss traditions and get a feel for what activities might be the most enjoyable for them.
In later stages, your loved one is likely to enjoy helping, even in the smallest way, in your holiday preparations. Even though they might not understand or grasp the full affair, they are often excited about having a role and purpose in the event.
Consider Celebrating in the Memory Care Community
If your loved one is already living in a memory care community, it might be best to move your celebration to their home.
Should you decide to take the celebration to your loved one, here are a few small things you might consider doing:
- Review the communities event calendar. Pick out a couple of events that you and family members can participate in with your loved one
- Bring favorite or traditional foods to share with your loved one and their neighbors and friends
- Spend time talking about old times or memories. Let them tell the stories and ask questions with no expectations or pressure to recall anything specifically or accurately – just let them talk
- Enjoy their favorites – listen to or sing songs or read a book or poems aloud
Do you have a large traditional family gathering? It’s not out of the possibility, at most assisted living communities, to move the whole family to the loved one’s assisted living community.
Most assisted living communities can accommodate large family gatherings and even help with the preparation and hosting of the event. This assistance in handling all the hosting and serving details can be a huge relief for the family, allowing them to focus on and enjoy making memories with their loved one and their family.
Who knows it could turn into a new favorite holiday tradition.
Schedule a Visit
Holidays are a perfect time to visit an assisted living community. You’re going to see all of the fun and excitement of residents, staff, and family enjoying the holidays.
If your loved one is considering transitioning to assisted living, we cordially invite you to come and see the Kensington Place Difference for yourself, and how we fulfill our promise to love and care for your family as we do our own.
- The Holidays and Alzheimer’s, Alzheimer’s Association