Autumn Leaves: How to create memorable holiday moments for a loved one with Alzheimer's – LIVING WELL Magazine

How to Create Memorable Holiday Moments for a Loved One with Alzheimer’s

By Jamie R. Lopez, RN, Autumn Leaves, Collin and North Dallas LIVING WELL Magazine

The holidays are a joyful, activity-filled time of year. We visit extended family, shop for gifts, socialize more often and go out to parties, plays and dinners. As much fun as this season can hold, it is also overwhelming for people with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers. With advance planning, flexibility and patience, the holidays can be filled with moments of joy for everyone. When preparing for the holidays, keep these tips in mind:

–       Plan ahead. Know what activities your loved one participates in and set a time limit so they do not become over stimulated, restless or confused.

–       Keep it simple. Having your loved one help in decorating the house or baking is a wonderful way to involve them in seasonal activities. Give simple, direct instructions that encompass a single task like having your loved one unpack boxes, place ornaments on the tree or mix the cookie dough for 2 – 3 minutes.

–       Be flexible. Sights, sounds and increased activity around the holidays can be overwhelming to someone with Alzheimer’s. If you see signals your loved one is becoming restless or uncomfortable be prepared to take them home.

–       Follow Your Loved One’s Lead. Individuals with Alzheimer’s are most comfortable in a safe environment, where they have a routine. New activities introduced into this routine can cause your loved to become overwhelmed, frightened or angry. Be attentive to the signals your loved is over-stressed, tired or uncomfortable.

–       Adjust expectations. Adjust the meaning of the “perfect” family gathering in case your loved one does remember a family tradition or recognize a family member. Familiarize family members with your situation and adapt family plans to limit the number of participants and the time span to make the event enjoyable for everyone.

–       Allow yourself some “fun” time. Especially during the holidays, it is ok to ask for help.  Taking your loved one to an adult day care program, having a friend help with your errands or saying “no” to some requests will help relieve stress and make the season more enjoyable for everyone.

Understanding the possible issues and stressful events that may occur can help you plan a holiday season that will be enjoyable for your family and your loved one and will create wonderful memories for everyone.

Author Jamie R. Lopez, RN is vice president of healthcare for Autumn Leaves Alzheimer’s & Memory Care Residence.