The season of merriment fast approaches. Families are busy buying holiday gifts, decorating the home and consulting their cookbooks in preparation for the upcoming feast. Most importantly, family members, both young and old, gather during the holidays to create a wealth of memories.
But recalling past holidays and fully participating in the current one may be a challenge for individuals suffering from dementia. As a progressive brain disease, dementia causes major shifts in personality, mood and sociability. Memory and reasoning skills also gradually decline in people living with dementia.
Given the serious struggles of seniors affected by dementia, caregivers and families are encouraged to make adjustments during this festive time. Fine-tuning responses, gaining an understanding of the disease and educating unaware guests go a long way toward helping the senior with dementia feel comfortable.
1. Carefully Decorate the Home
Families look forward to the yearly tradition of hanging bright holiday lights, strings of glistening tinsel and delicate ornaments. Be extra careful with this year’s decorations. Certain decorations can cause an array of negative consequences for a senior with dementia.
The blinking strings of light may cause the elderly individual to experience disorientation or even fright. Seniors with dementia may easily mistake attractive, round ornaments as food; or, they may forget that these ornaments are to be hung on the tree. Inflatable snowmen scare people with dementia.
Counter adverse reactions by stringing lights that do not blink. Reconsider unboxing sentimental ornaments, and instead hang ones that are less precious. Choose cheery decorations that do not resemble edible items. Avoid placing the animated Santa in the yard this year.
Families are likely to utilize extension cords to extravagantly light up the home. Since seniors with dementia have a high fall risk, be sure to tape the cords to the ground. Declutter the walkways of presents, gift wrap and decorations to eliminate tripping hazards.
2. Involve the Senior
An elderly person suffering from dementia has plenty of awareness to enjoy the spirit of the holidays. Encourage participation in the merry preparations. Invite the individual to engage in simple activities, like wrapping presents, measuring ingredients while the caregiver bakes or folding dinner napkins.
Stick to the senior’s established routine during festive preparations. Disruptions to schedules can confuse the senior with dementia. Include eating and sleeping breaks. As the elderly loved one helps hang decorations, for instance, include time for the senior to rest and recuperate.
3. Inform Guests
A loved one’s cognitive decline can be difficult for visiting relatives to accept. Ease them into the situation by emailing what changes to expect, that they should not take offense if the senior fails to remember them and, despite memory impairment, that the senior looks forward to their visit.
In addition to apprising the guests, encourage them to chat (via phone or video) with their elderly loved one prior to arriving to the festivities. Conversing helps guests become familiar with the changes in the senior’s personality and memory, which in turn helps the visitors feel more comfortable.
Explain the senior’s condition to children, since they are likely to be frightened or confused by changes in their relative. Still, kids and their older relatives can enjoy the emotional rewards of time spent together. Arrange for them to share an afternoon engaging in simple activities, like holiday crafts.
Although the senior suffering from dementia may no longer be able to follow conversations, they are able to appreciate the joyous spirits of those around them. With the understanding and support of visiting relatives, the holidays will be a source of treasured memories for everyone.
4. Check-In Often
During the festivities, a senior with dementia may become overwhelmed by large crowds or noise. Frequently check in with the elderly individual, asking how they are coping. Arrange for a spot to which the senior may retreat when they consider the celebrations too intense.
Families may organize a few guests at a time, rather than a group, to visit the senior. Keep in mind that dementia symptoms can cause affected individuals to withdraw from social activities they once enjoyed. Be attentive to any signs of distress in the senior; revise holiday plans, as needed.
5. Choose Meaningful Activities
Engage in holiday activities that are meaningful to seniors living with dementia. The elderly individual may find comfort and joy in singing holiday tunes together, watching movies that feature holiday themes or flipping through photo albums of holidays gone by.
6. Give Safe Gifts
While gift-giving will remain a tradition, some holiday presents are no longer appropriate for people living with dementia. Gifts these seniors are able to appreciate include ones that stimulate the senses, such as scented lotions, music playlists, easy-to-wear clothing or a photo album.
Additional safe gift ideas include gift certificates. The gift of a helping hand is always welcome to seniors with dementia. Offer an IOU to mow their lawn, shovel the snow or clean the gutter. A practical gift that family members may choose to give together is elder home care services.
How Assisting Hands Can Help
Caring for a person with dementia is a challenging task, one that requires endless patience, understanding of the disease and support. At Assisting Hands Home Care, our dedicated caregivers are able to provide the specialized care that every senior with dementia deserves.
Our dementia home care providers are experienced in caring for the elderly suffering from dementia. We are able to recognize symptoms of the disease and take steps to comfort the individual. When the senior wanders around the home, for instance, our caregivers accompany them to ensure their safety.
Incontinence, too, is a part of dementia. Assisting Hands Home Care dementia caregivers discreetly assist the senior with toileting, as well as all aspects of the activities of daily living, such as bathing, grooming, dressing, light housekeeping and meal preparation.
Especially during the frenzy of the holidays, families benefit from extra support. Assisting Hands Home Care is prepared to provide the most compassionate memory care as often as needed. Our reputable home care agency serves the communities around St. Charles, Bartlett, Aurora and Batavia, Illinois.