When the holidays approach it can be a time of stress or of excited anticipation. When someone is living with dementia, the fact that there are a lot of expectations that come with the holidays, may add some extra stress. There are other things that may add stress to the holidays and being aware of these will help you prepare so that you can have the best possible outcome.
Dementia & The Holidays
Here are some things to consider for the holidays:
- People living with dementia are more able to participate and connect with others in a familiar environment.
- A change in environment is difficult for people living with dementia.
- Travel can be stressful for people living with dementia
- People living with dementia are more able to participate and connect with others with limited distractions
- A change in routine is difficult for people living with dementia
- People living with dementia may tire more easily due to the variety of activities and increased number of people at holiday events.
- For the 50% of people living with dementia who know that they have more difficulty with things, it is important to provide a forgiving environment.
Tips For The Holidays
Here are some tips for people living with dementia:
- Take some time out to relax
- Do what you enjoy
- Consider letting people know when you need a break or are having trouble
- Make a list with your partner of what you would like to do this season
- the list to help keep on track
- Consider saying – “I know I know you, but I just can’t place you…” when someone greets you and you aren’t sure who they are to you
- Watch or listen to old, familiar music, movies, TV programs that make you feel good
- Get some exercise every day
- Get plenty of water each day
- Be careful about eating more sugar than normal
Holiday Tips For Dementia Care Partners
Here are some tips for care partners:
- Keep gatherings smaller & visits shorter
- Provide times for rest and ways to help the person living with dementia excuse themselves if feeling overwhelmed
- Make a list of things you and your loved one can do
- Help visitors know what is helpful for the person living with dementia
- Encourage going out and doing something fun together rather than just talking
- Ask visitors to bring old pictures, old familiar items or props, and be prepared to reminisce about old times
- Take breaks from each other
- Consider cutting back on traditions if they seem distressing
- Help visitors out by introducing them with some orienting information, if they forget to do so
- Get some exercise & take care of your stress levels
- Get a ‘friend’ to help the person with dementia select gifts, shop, or do something special for loved ones, including you.
Visitors & The Holidays
Here are some things that visitors should consider:
- Start your greeting by offering your hand in a handshake
- Give people living with dementia approximately 9 seconds, giving them time to respond
- Introduce yourself by name, if the person still doesn’t seem to ‘know’ you, give them a little more background
- Use shorter phrases
- Talk about the old times more than recent information
- Keep memories positive if possible
- Accept ‘general comments’, and don’t push for specifics
- Go with the flow of the conversation, even if there are errors in speech or information
- Be prepared to hear old stories over and over
- Do something with the person rather than just talking to them
- If the person says something distressing or seems worried about something, realize it may not be true, but they are not lying to you, their brain is lying to them. Check it out with the care partner before acting on it.
Knowing things that might increase stress will help you be prepared and proactive in helping everyone enjoy the holidays. Orchard at Brookhaven will be offering a special holiday event that will help you prepare a positive event for everyone. This session will be led by Dementia Specialist, trainer and consultant Leslie Finkely. Leslie has helped senior living communities and care partners create moments of joy for people living with dementia for over 15 years.