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Keeping the “Happy” in Holidays


The holiday season can be filled with many different activities, emotions, and traditions.  For persons affected by Alzheimer’s disease or dementia these times can be particularly stressful and chaotic.

While persons affected by dementia should be included in the traditions of the season, care should be taken to avoid an “overload” that disrupts their comforting daily routine.  That is why our first tip is to eat, drink and be merry in moderation.  Holidays usually come with foods that we typically do not eat on a regular basis and in greater quantities.  If attending an event where snacks will be served, consider having your loved one eat their regular, balanced meal beforehand as this allows them to not feel rush or overwhelmed by all of the choices.  It also helps to prevent the challenges faced should their stomach become upset or sleep disturbed due to the change in diet or even the time the meal is eaten.

Timing can mean a great deal to someone with memory loss as they tend to do best with a set schedule.  Therefore, despite numerous opportunities for celebrations, be protective of the established schedule.  Continue to eat regular meals, get to bed and wake up at usual times, and keep the same routines for daily activities. In addition, choose times to take the person with dementia shopping or to church when those places might be less busy or have fewer people in attendance.

It is also important to carefully consider the decision to take the person with dementia home for the holidays if that person has moved to a long term care facility.  Sometimes leaving the familiar sights and sounds can cause anxiety and increased confusion.  They may be uncomfortable and unable to sit with the rest of the family to visit, eat or participate in opening gifts and other family traditions.  Also consider the weather and be sure that their loved one has the proper indoor/outdoor clothing, incontinent products and all medications that they may need while they are away.

Finally and most importantly, practice good self-care during the holidays.  Know when you need help and then ask for it.  Know who those people are that you can talk to about how you’re feeling.  Get good sleep, eat well and find time for yourself.  You will have a happier holiday for it!

Gift ideas for the person with dementia…

  • Activity books: math games, crossword puzzle, strategy games
  • Short visits featuring a hand massage or shared meal or favorite snack
  • Easy-to-wear and care clothing
  • Music: a favorite CD, music that also stimulates reminiscing or features nature
  • Small basket of favorite foods or fruit
  • A picture frame with labeled photos
  • Scents: perfumed lotions, soaps, gels, linen spray
  • A birdfeeder with bird food
  • A subscription to a magazine or newspaper
  • Simple games and puzzles

What gift suggestions do you have?

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