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Creating a More Joyful Holiday

The holidays can be stressful under the best of circumstances. For those of us caring for a loved one with dementia, the possibilities for headaches — and heartache — can multiply quickly. The desire to hold on to beloved holiday traditions pulls at us, but is often at odds with our new reality. Fortunately, there are things you can do to celebrate the season while still meeting the needs of your loved one.

Get them involved

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the weeks around Thanksgiving and Christmas bring a 10 percent uptick in calls to its national, 24-hour hotline about people who have wandered away. To keep your loved one safe, involve them in as much of your holiday activities as possible. Have them make ornaments, decorate the tree, polish the menorah, wrap presents, and stuff envelopes. Spend time with them reading holiday stories and singing songs around the piano.

Bring the party home

If you choose to entertain, invite people to the home of your loved one. This will create a more comfortable environment for them and reduce the stress of having to travel. Limit the number of people you invite. Large crowds can be confusing and difficult for those who are facing challenges.

Preparing your loved one for visitors

Before someone comes to visit, show your loved one pictures of who’s coming and talk about how your loved one knew them. Play familiar holiday music and serve favorite, traditional foods. Have them help decorate to make them feel like they’re part of the process.

Preparing visitors

Talk to friends and family before they arrive so they know what circumstances to be prepared for when meeting with your loved one. As people with dementia may remember faces, but not names, have guests wear name tags.

Manage your expectations

Remain flexible enough to alter your plans if your loved one becomes overwhelmed or tired. Keep the festivities familiar, but simple enough that they can be easily altered.

Ask for what you want

This is good advice year-round, but particularly apt during the holidays. When somebody asks what you need, be honest. Ask for assistance or a gift certificate for a grocery store that delivers. If you need help getting kids picked up or a prescription refilled, ask for help. Most people are eager to assist and feel better about themselves after pitching in. Give them the gift of service.

Make time for yourself

Make sure you’re taking time to do the things you love to do. Whether it’s going to a movie or taking a nap, ensure you’ve still got time to pamper yourself.


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