dementia · holidays

Activities to do with loved one suffering from dementia or Alzheimers during the holidays, christmas, new year and other days


If you have a loved one who is suffering from dementia or Alzheimers, you may notice that during the holiday time, their illness seems to get worse and they often get easily agitate and stressed.

If you are wondering why this might happen, you only need to think about yourself and you how you a person with a healthy brain feels during the holiday season. Do you find yourself getting more stressed during the holiday season? The traffic gets heavier, the weight of worrying about the meal for the big day, the shopping, who will you buy what for, will they like it?, the chaos that can ensue when you have a house full of kids and family members, some you wish would make up excuses so they cannot come. If you feel this way, then know that your dementia or alzheimers loved one feels it too.

Routine is one of the best things we can give our clients with memory impairment. Doing the same exact thing, the same exact way with little distraction and simple or basic instruction often tend to be the most successful way of getting them to do something. Well when we throw in a holiday and everything from church service times to dinner to visiting changes dramatically, we see our loved ones get more agitated, stress and even combative.

Often I hear adult children say that their loved one goes into the other room and does not want to particpate in conversations, acitivities or family things when everyone is together. Please understand that it is not that the person does not want to or is being rude. the reality is the person with dementia cannot process what is going on around them and it becomes too overwhelming so they need quiet time. Sometimes it is just their brain not being able to process the words they hear and make sense of it. Add a hearing impairment, a hearing aid, a vision problem or some other health problem and you have a person who has a multiple of things going on inside of them but cannot communicate that to you.

Some things that you can do to decrease a loved one’s stress at the holiday is: keep them in their own environment. I know we all feel bad that so and so will be alone, etc. but a person with a memory impairment who goes to their daughter’s home where they have been a million times, can get very agitated, want to go home and be unpleasant simply because he or she is confused by the environment. Many elderly people eat early and so visiting a loved one around 2pm to have a good meal might be an option for you.

If you have a person who is in early stages, things like looking through photo albums or pictures can be a great acitivity. I suggest that you use statement questions such as I was so cute in my little santa suit…instead of asking the person question like, when was this picture taken? Who gave me that suit? Where did you buy it? People even in early stages can get confused and agitated in your home, with alot of other people, and lots of noise.

For people who have severe memory impairments and cannot be left alone, I suggest that you consider a small quiet get together at your home. Keep music soft and lower the volume. Often clients like to dance slowly to music, will respond to lyrics if you sing and may be able to participate in small basic acitivities such as eating cookies and tea with you. Keep it simple, quiet and easy. If you need a break and want to go and visit loved ones, arrange to have help on the holidays. This can be done by contacting a company like Comfort Keepers. www.comfortkeepers.com

They can send in a person to stay with your loved one for couple hours while you go and visit. You will feel better knowing someone is with your loved one that can eat with him or her, sing some songs and keep them safe. You deserve a break, its better to have someone stay than try and take your loved one with you. Don’t let guilt make you feel like you should not have a good time or be with your loved one all the time. Your loved one has an illness like any illness and it’s okay for you to have a break for couple hours. Even though your loved cannot tell you, he or she appreciates the fact that you do not expose him or her to the loud, noisy, often chaotic environment of the holidays. Elderly people and seniors like it quiet. It is easier to process what is said and going on around them.

Other things you can do with your loved one depending on his or her illness is basic puzzles either ones you put together might have to be a kid’s puzzle with like 12 pieces that are big, for men it might be taking something apart and putting it back together again. The object needs to be something with large parts that only has maybe 3 to 5 steps depending on the progression of their illness. Sometimes people like to pack for trips or they like to open mail. It’s okay let them. The more you try to stop the behavior, the more agitated they get. Cleaning out the closet is one that seems to be a favorite.

You need to watch your loved one and see what they can handle and enjoy. If it’s nothing, than visiting might be your only option. Again keep conversation basic, statements and try to avoid questioning. It only frustrates them and gets you all worked up. Take time to enjoy the holiday with your loved one. Their illness will eventually progress and it will get harder each year to communicate and sometimes deal with them. If you need a break, call a company like Comfort Keepers to help you out. They are national company that has offices all over the country. www.comfortkeepers.com

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