Hosting Holiday Gatherings When A Loved One Has Alzheimer's Disease
Grandma’s baked apple pies made the entire house smell as sweet as sugar… Dad carved the turkey… One of your uncles dressed up as Santa … Mom coordinated the whole event with her phenomenal organizational skills.
Holiday festivities change when your beloved elders are affected by Alzheimer’s disease or other conditions that disrupt memory retention.
If a senior loved one lives with you or you are acting as their primary caregiver, what are you supposed to do when it’s your turn to host the next holiday gathering? If siblings, children, grandchildren and other relatives are planning on coming to your home to celebrate, you are likely to feel a significant amount of stress, even overwhelmed.
Enjoying Holiday Gatherings
If stress, grief, and concern for your senior loved one’s needs are causing you to reconsider hosting the annual holiday gathering, speak with your family about creating alternative plans.
However, you shouldn’t dismiss the idea of hosting without first considering the benefits for you and your senior loved one. If they can take part in the activities, then providing them with a familiar space may well be what’s best.
You can adjust any aspect of your holiday traditions to better serve your loved one’s new reality—which, by extension, is the new reality of the family. With the holiday season hustle and bustle, stress is a constant companion of planning parties, holiday shopping, and family gatherings.
By making a few adjustments to your traditions, you and your loved ones can still enjoy the holidays together.
It’s Important to Maintain a Sense of Familiarity
Considering how busy the holiday season can be, it’s important to preserve the basic framework of your senior loved one’s daily life as much as possible.
Maintaining some familiar routine is the best way to provide support for Alzheimer’s patients. You can follow through with this concept by:
- Providing meals at the same time each day
- Making sure that they are taking their medications at the regular time
- Following through with their regular exercise routine
- Allowing them to get plenty of rest
Preserve Traditions while Making Slight Adjustments
You can maintain your family traditions while making slight adjustments that allow you to focus more on your loved ones.
Try to scale back on the number of people who attend your event as large groups of people and loud noise can be distressing for people with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
Avoid putting up decorations that could be mistaken for food and hang up holiday lights that do not blink, as they have the ability to frighten or confuse a person with dementia.
Also, consider creating a specific place in your home where your loved one can relax or retreat if they become overwhelmed.
Prepare and Involve Your Senior Loved One
Even if the person you’re taking care of doesn’t remember everything that happens on a day to day basis, getting them involved with your preparations helps familiarize them with the event to come.
It is highly recommended to involve an Alzheimer’s patient in performing basic activities like wrapping gifts, setting the table or creating simple crafts. Let your loved one help with baking and decorating; even if they can’t participate, they will enjoy watching and listening to you describe what you’re doing.
Go ahead and make Nana’s famous cinnamon rolls; she may surprise you with some advice or at least enjoy the tribute. And before guests arrive, go through a photo album to provide a memory cue about those who will be there.
Set Expectations with other Family Members
Experts from the National Institute on Aging say, “If this is the first visit since the person with Alzheimer’s became severely impaired, tell guests that the visit may be painful.” Your senior loved one may not remember every person’s name or their relationship, but they can still enjoy their company.
The Alzheimer’s Association suggests sending out an e-mail to all of your guests ahead of time so that they are aware of the changes in your loved one’s personality and behavior.
If children are coming over, make sure you speak with them so that they understand how to behave around your aging family member.
Ask for Help
Most people are very willing to help out; you just need to be confident enough to ask.
To reduce your responsibilities and stress, consider changing your dinner into a potluck where all of your guests can contribute.
Let the children decorate the tree since it gives them something to do without worrying about the results. Perhaps visiting family members can stay with your senior loved one so that you can leave the house to shop or fulfill any of your other obligations.
If you use in-home care, consider hiring them during your event so that someone is there to provide direct supervision and support.
Remain Relaxed and Flexible
People who have dementia have good and bad days. If your senior loved one seems overwhelmed by a larger group, perhaps you can ask one of your relatives to hang out with them for a while in the space that you’ve created for them.
Above all else, remember that you are taking on tremendous responsibility. You deserve to relax and enjoy the holidays with your friends and family members.
The Staff at Hearthstone Senior Living Are Here to Help Make the Holidays Great
Today more than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, and upwards of 15 million of their friends and loved ones are providing care for them. This figure will continue to increase as our population continues to age – so it stands to reason that this is not the last holiday gathering your guests will spend with someone who has memory loss.
By including your loved one, you’re helping to craft a new tradition: The holiday spirit welcomes every family member and friend, no matter what their challenges are.
For help and information on how Hearthstone can support your senior loved ones, please call us to learn more about our community or to schedule a tour.
12520 SW Hart Road
Beaverton, OR 97008
10880 SW Davies Rd
Beaverton, OR 97008