Holidays are a stressful time for many, especially those with dementia and their families. We take them out of their familiar surroundings, invite everyone over and ask them to be normal with the entire family. How unfair! Rethink your holiday tradition so it is more enjoyable for the person with dementia and less stressful for you and the family members.
Steps to consider:
1. Discuss the upcoming holidays with your family members beforehand. Agree on those traditions that must be retained and those that can be discontinued.
2. Make a list of those tasks which MUST be done and those that SHOULD be done. Focus on the MUST be done list only.
3. Have each family member prepare part of the meal rather than doing it all to yourself. You may want to do it all but it will be less stressful if you have others involved.
4. People with dementia feel safest in their familiar surroundings. If your loved one resides in a Memory Support community consider bringing them dinner and then staying while they enjoy it. Short visits are always easier for everyone no matter what day it is.
5. If a large family gathering is planned designate family members to spend parts of that day with the loved one so they are not left alone. The day will go much easier if there is someone next to them to provide cues as to who just came into the room, help them to the dinner table, etc.
6. Make sure all family members understand the loved one's decline and adjust their expectations accordingly. Inform your family members beforehand and remind them that a smile and hug are truly gifts to share.
What else would you suggest?
Nancy Carey, RN