Holidays can be a tough time for individuals with Alzheimer’s, as well as those providing them care, and other friends and family. The reality of the situation can come to light during the holidays. It may be that one or two people have been providing care and suddenly the rest of the family is exposed to the changes in their loved one. Holidays can also be the time when family comes to terms with the fact that additional help is needed for their loved one and begins to look to professional Alzheimer’s in home caregivers for guidance and relief.
The person affected by Alzheimer’s may have a difficult time during the holidays. Family in home caregivers may feel overwhelmed trying to provide care for their loved one while also keeping up holiday festivities and traditions for that person and everyone else. Even family in home caregivers who have been providing care on a regular basis may have to confront new realities when family and friends come over to celebrate and note the changes that have occurred in the manner and behavior of their loved one.
In order to avoid additional stress and make for a happier holiday celebration for everyone, it may be time for the caregiver to adjust his or her own expectations, as well as the expectations of everyone else. First, the caregiver should determine what can realistically be accomplished, which traditions can continue, what may need to change, and where additional help may be needed from other family members, friends or professional in home caregivers. Often the caregiver’s own expectations are the most difficult ones to change. Giving one’s self permission to change holiday traditions and expectations is often most difficult for the caregiver who has often assumed the responsibilities and role of the person they are caring for and who is no longer able to take on that role for themselves.
Some things for the family caregiver to consider when preparing for holiday celebrations are:
- Having a potluck instead of a formal dinner
- Changing the celebration to a lunch or brunch instead of dinner (this time can be a better for those with Alzheimer’s)
- Whether or not alcohol will be available
- If a new location might work better
- If the host or hostess responsibilities can be transferred to someone new
- Using professional services for outside food preparation or cleaning
- Whether or not using professional home care services to provide Alzheimer’s care while holiday preparations are underway, or during the festivities themselves, will help make the individual with Alzheimer’s more comfortable and less disoriented by the situation.
Once the family caregiver has determined possible changes, they should be communicated with honesty and sensitivity to the rest of the family. Likely, they will need to be informed of the reasons for the changes and the situation regarding the changes their loved one with Alzheimer’s has experienced. It is helpful to let family members know that their loved one can no longer think or remember things clearly and may not even know who they are, so that they can be mentally prepared as well, and be able to handle their reaction in a way that will not adversely affect the positive atmosphere of the gathering.
While input from others can be considered, the family caregiver who knows the situation best should be prepared to patiently explain the reasons the changes need to be made and stand by any decisions that are not up for negotiation. This is especially true when the caregiver knows that giving in to the demands of others will actually make the situation worse for everyone.
After the holidays are over, the family caregiver should take time to rest and recuperate. Arranging to have professional in home caregivers come in to provide Alzheimer’s care so that the family caregiver can have a break is important. The family caregiver should take time to do something enjoyable like take in a movie, have dinner with a friend, get a massage or spend time at a park or museum.
Making holiday celebrations easier for both caregiver and the relative affected by Alzheimer’s can make for happier, more enjoyable occasions for everyone.