Holiday time is coming up, and for caregivers of loved ones with Alzheimer's disease, it can be a very challenging time of the year. Here are some suggestions to help you and your loved one to have a safe and happy season together in spite of the obstacles.
In the midst of putting up decorations, rearranging furniture and putting up Christmas trees, the person with Alzheimer's will do better in an environment that is as consistent as possible. Try not to move the furniture more than absolutely necessary, and watch for danger spots, like electrical cords or throw rugs that could cause a fall. Don't have candles burning in places that could easily be brushed up against with clothing. Avoid using blinking lights or decorations that look edible. Use your loved one's best-loved decorations to spark memories and increase their ability to enjoy the festivities. Play familiar Christmas songs, and fix traditional foods that they will enjoy.
Have young children play in a separate room to keep noise levels down and avoid causing your loved one to feel panicked or agitated. Alzheimer's patients pick up on the moods of others around them, and the atmosphere needs to feel serene and peaceful for them to enjoy visitors. Have just a few guests at one time, and avoid large crowds of people. Name tags are very helpful and will keep your loved one from feeling frustrated and embarrassed when they can't remember people they should know. Have a quiet room that the Alzheimer patient is accustomed to in case they feel overwhelmed by too much noisy activity. If you notice signs of increased confusion or agitation, assist them to their quiet place to rest for a while.
Christmas stories from years gone by will help draw your loved one in and keep them involved in the celebration. It's much easier for people with Alzheimer's Disease to remember things that happened long ago than something that happened yesterday, so reminisce! Try simple tasks to occupy the time, like frosting cookies, stamping envelopes for cards, or making simple ornaments. Look at catalogs together and help your special one to order gifts for people they care about. Take time to look at photo albums and talk about happy holiday times together. This could be just what they need to reconnect and appreciate the holidays, creating more memories that you will hold dear for years to come.
By Jo Nelson
Jo Nelson, RN is the owner of Servant's Heart Homemaker Services, a personal care assistance company located in North Central Indiana.
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