Your elderly father has dementia so as his caregiver you’re worried about the upcoming holidays. Last year dad got confused and agitated, which put a damper on the festivities. Dealing with dementia has been hard but you love your father dearly and want him to be involved again this year. What should you do? Finding ways to include a senior relative with dementia in holiday celebrations isn’t easy. What follows are some creative ideas so that your holiday season will be more enjoyable for all.
Dealing with Dementia Around the Holidays
As dementia progresses it can cause different behaviors that then surface during holiday gatherings. Early on, those behavioral changes might be subtle, like withdrawing socially or acting uncomfortable. Many people with dementia also feel a sense of loss while celebrating holidays because of what they’re going through.
In the latter stages of dementia behaviors like agitation, confusion and aggression are possible. Forgetting the names of children or grandchildren is also common. The person’s informal caregiver may start to get overwhelmed while trying to maintain family traditions along with providing care. At that point, it’s best to avoid any holiday activities that could overstimulate the person with dementia- or the person caring for them.
Moderation is the Key During Holiday Festivities
There are times when someone with dementia will suddenly get excited while seeing family or friends. Everyone’s situation is different, so finding a plan that works for you both may take some trial and error.
Since a person with dementia is sensitive to their environment following a set routine helps. Too much stimulation can worsen agitation or confusion, while too little stimulation may cause them to withdraw. Since the key is providing moderate stimulation for your loved one, try these tips:
Set realistic expectations
First, you’ll need to adjust your expectations. To avoid any misunderstandings once your other guests arrive, contact them in advance to clarify those new expectations and update them about your senior’s condition.
Some of the best ways to discuss the situation as a group are:
- Video chats
- Meeting at someone’s home
So that you don’t get overwhelmed as a caregiver, instead of inviting 20 people over for dinner, only invite half that number. You can also suggest a potluck meal so that you don’t have to do all the cooking.
Involve the person living with dementia
While maintaining the routine of the loved one with dementia as much as possible, involve them in safe, manageable holiday preparation activities like:
- Wrapping packages
- Decorating the tree
- Setting the table
- Preparing food
- Going caroling
Adapt gift giving
Provide your guests beforehand with suggestions for useful and enjoyable gifts for the person with dementia, like a medical ID bracelet or membership in a wandering response service. Other gift ideas for someone living with dementia include:
- Photo albums of friends and family members
- Easy-to-remove clothing items
- Favorite music CDs
- Treats that they really like
Advise others to avoid giving your loved one potentially dangerous gifts or ones that might confus