Holidays are opportunities to share time with people you love. Try to make these celebrations easy on yourself and the person with Alzheimer’s disease so that you may concentrate on enjoying your time together.
Adjust your expectations by calling family and friends to discuss the holiday celebrations and make sure everyone understands your care giving situation. Have realistic expectations of what you can and cannot do. There is no way you can expect to maintain every holiday tradition and event. Give yourself permission to do only what you can manage. Instead of a huge gathering consider inviting fewer people for short visits. Try lunches and brunches instead of huge family dinners.
Involve the person with Alzheimer’s or another dementia in the holiday activities keeping in mind their abilities and safety. They can help with decorations, preparing food, wrapping packages or setting the table. Avoid using candles, artificial fruits/vegetables or other edibles as decorations. Do not use blinking lights as they may confuse or scare the person. Maintain as normal a routine as possible. Build on past traditions and memories like singing old holiday songs or watching seasonal movies.
Gifts ideas include tickets to a movie or simple familiar games like dominos or bingo. If they are more advanced in the disease consider an ID bracelet, comfortable easy to remove clothing or favorite music tapes. Videos of favorite movies, animals, sports teams or travel, warm blankets or quilts and photo albums are good gifts.
And most importantly the caregiver must take care of themselves. If friends or family ask what they can do for you, be specific about letting them know what you need. A few hours out for a movie or a nice dinner or help with household chores. Do your best to manage holiday stress and care giving stress (not to mention the family stress of holidays). If you find it too overwhelming and need support, call the Alzheimer’s Association to talk with one of our care consultants at 1-800-272-3900. You can also chat with others who know what you are going through on our message boards found at www.alz.org.