Juggling being a care partner along with your usual holiday engagements can be a challenge. There may be family members who are not familiar with dementia and the disease progression in your loved one. There may be duties like cooking or hosting which are traditionally your role but could be too much to do this year. While the holidays may look different when your loved one has dementia, here are a few tips to help support you and your loved one.
1. Give yourself grace
You may have expectations of what the holidays typically look like, but give yourself permission to reimagine them this year. Take on what you can manage comfortably. This may look like hosting a smaller meal with fewer people, attending fewer events outside of the home, or scheduling more down time for you and your loved one. Remember to give yourself the patience that you’d give another family care partner.
2. Create space for quiet
Holiday events can be overwhelming to a person with dementia. Sensory input like loud noise, new smells, and many people can place undue stress on them. Plan ahead of time to know where you can find peace and quiet if you are attending an event. Finding rest when needed can prevent more major behavioral symptoms after the events are over.
3. Adjust decorations
While it is resourceful to decorate using candies, strands of popcorn, or artificial fruits, it can be confusing for people living with dementia. Avoid making items that can be mistaken as food accessible. Additionally, blinking lights can create distress as it is a lot of stimuli. Opt for soft glowing lights instead. Holiday decorations change the environment, so be mindful of the quantity and placement of decorations
4. Plan ahead
Your family members will likely want to help make the holidays possible for you and your loved one with dementia. Recruit their help in caregiving where you can. Prepare them for the changes they may see and give them tips for interacting with the person with dementia. Offer to have smaller gatherings or have each person visit 1:1.
5. Enjoy music!
Music is well documented to have positive effects for people living with dementia, and holiday themed music is no exception. Play their childhood favorites and reminisce together if you can. This can be a great activity for family members who aren’t as familiar with your loved one’s disease progression as well.
6. Delegate tasks
As the holidays approach, you may have more friends and family around than usual. This is a great time to enlist their help. While you may not be comfortable giving them caregiving tasks, instead ask them to help with cleaning, gift shopping, clearing snow, or other household tasks.
7. Trust yourself
As a care partner, you know what is best for your loved one. It is okay to decline the input of others and make the choices that will help you and your loved one with dementia to live well. If you feel that an outing is getting to be too much, it is okay to head home early to prevent further fatigue.
Take this list as suggestions, knowing that some will work for you and others may not be the right fit. If you have recommendations to share with other care partners, please comment to share! Fox Valley Memory Project staff are here to help if you have questions or would like to discuss tips that could work for your own individual situation. Give us a call at 920-225-1711.