The holiday season is a joyful moment for the entire family. Gifts, special dinners and visits from family and friends make this time of year extraordinarily special.
When someone in the family has dementia symptoms, however, the holidays can pose a new set of challenges. Creating an all-inclusive environment is certainly a top priority. Yet, it’s understandable to have a long list of questions about how to bring about everyone’s participation and holiday cheer during this season.
Helping them with physical barriers is an important first step. It’s also incumbent upon the family to navigate the emotional state and moods of someone with dementia symptoms. Keep in mind that the holidays can be emotionally triggering. So always remember to consider emotional state. Are they happy? Are they having a tough day or week? Having this understanding can further the family’s efforts to promote inclusivity and throw a wonderful party that everyone will enjoy, including the person with dementia symptoms
Here are some tips.
Christmas lights, trees, elves on shelves and all the other fun holiday decorations transmit a lot of joy – and visual stimulation. That’s the part to be concerned about. Unfortunately, excess stimuli can be burdensome to your loved one with dementia symptoms. Flickering lights or an overload of color are at the very least quite distracting, but at their worst, disorienting. This experience can take a toll on someone’s mood and overall balance. The same can be said about loud noises. So, this Christmas, it’s a good idea to tone down some of the decorations and adjust the volume so everyone feels welcome and comfortable.
What makes this time so special is the enduring family traditions that are passed on through generations. Gathering with the family and taking part in these traditions can spark positive memories. At the same time, do not discount the value of creating new ones that are catered to your loved one with dementia symptoms. For instance, maybe grandma or grandpa are passionate about food and cooking. The family can involve them in a variety of ways. Help them place dough on the cooking sheet or mix ingredients in a bowl. Just make sure that the task is suitable for their physical capabilities and that they feel safe. And guide them through it instead of asking them questions and making them think. Be their partner and think for them. Instead asking, “Can you pass me the sugar?” Say, “Come with me to get the sugar.”
Prepare your loved one
Families can also take proactive steps beforehand. Regardless of how many guests plan to attend, it’s a good idea to go over the list of invited guests with your loved one in advance. Telling your loved one who’s attending will give them time to collect their thoughts and feel included. You can also show them photos of the guests. Though they may not recognize or know who the people in the photos are, they will feel included. Remember: Even if they don’t have the sharpest memory, they still have feelings.
Prepare your guests
Be open with your guests about your loved one’s condition. If there’s a possible communication hurdle, let them know. Or, maybe there’s something in particular that will really get your loved one’s attention. Go ahead and share that too. This kind of guidance can go a long way and set a sweet tone for the rest of the evening.
It’s OK to preserve normal routines. Too much change can be overwhelming for the person with dementia symptoms. So, if your loved one can’t do without going for a walk, you can make time for that activity on the day of the event.
Focus on now
Finally, it might be best to focus the bulk of the conversations on the present. Don’t dwell too much on what they were able to do in the past, unless there are certain memories that still stick with them they enjoy talking about. Empower them by speaking with them about the present and guiding them through things they can do to help, and what they enjoy, and what they want to do with the family next.
Always remember to join them in their feelings, no matter if it makes sense to you or not, and avoid asking them questions! Questions will make them think and cause stress.
If you would like further guidance schedule a Family Dementia Care Counseling Session with me today!