When your parent or other family member is living with Alzheimer’s, the holidays can be especially difficult—but they don’t have to be. With a little planning and by following a few Alzheimer’s holiday tips, your family time together can be a time to make new memories, even when memory fails.
10 Alzheimer’s holiday tips
1. Focus on the present holiday rather than longing for the past and try to appreciate the small moments of joy and laughter in each day.
2. If you’re cooking a meal or need to make a last-minute run to the store, enlist help from a family member, friend, or care professional to be with your loved one while you get things done. Suggest a walk, a card game, or streaming a favorite old movie.
3. Bring photos of past holiday gatherings to go through with your loved one. Even with serious short-term memory problems, your loved one may be able to recall old memories.
4. Don’t try to point out “the truth” or correct a loved one who has Alzheimer’s or other dementia. What they believe is their truth. Trying to set them straight may just cause upset for everyone.
5. If you’re having trouble following what your loved one is saying, employ the improvisational comedy technique of responding, “Yes, and…” Then wait patiently. This suggests you agree with them and encourages them to say more. For someone with Alzheimer’s, hearing their own voice is validating and even calming.
6. Appreciate that you’re creating new memories, however imperfect, right now for yourself and your family.
7. Keep a sense of humor. No matter how dark things seem, there’s always a way—and a need—to laugh.
8. If your parent/grandparent/spouse becomes agitated or says something aggressive or unkind, take a deep breath and remind yourself it’s the disease talking. The best approach for soothing is with love. Look him or her in the eyes and reassure them, “I love you, and it’s going to be okay.” If another adult is there, walk away for a few minutes to clear your head and reset your own emotions.
9. Make a playlist of old songs or tune into an oldies station and start a sing along. Singing or simply listening to old favorite songs is calming and can trigger happy memories and good feelings.
10. Be sure to say “hello,” and “goodbye,” even if you’re not sure they know who you are—or that you’re there. Even in late-stages of dementia, your loved one may be able to perceive more than they can let on. Always aim for a caring, genuine connection. You’ll feel better—and your loved one may feel better too.
Whether you’re hosting or visiting around the holidays, be clear about what you can and cannot do, set boundaries, and ask for the help you need. If you’re feeling stressed, your loved one will pick-up on that and feel stressed too. So make self-care the first thing on your holiday to-do list. If you check that box, the rest will follow.
Thanks to the Alzheimer’s Association, Honor has expert information to train our caregivers for all stages of cognitive decline. Our Care Pros can help for just one hour or as long as you need—24/7. Call (877) 777-5116, and we can get you started in a few hours.