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Coping with Alzheimer’s Disease and the Holidays

Can you believe that once again it is time to prepare for the holidays? Family gatherings for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and other occasions are right around the corner. Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia during the holidays can be stressful.

Almost every one of us knows someone affected by Alzheimer’s disease. So how can we help each other cope with holiday stress while facing the issues of dementia? It is important for caregivers to accept the help of family and friends. The person with dementia may still enjoy many holiday traditions, but others may be overwhelming. Modify expectations for family gatherings with the person with dementia by considering their abilities and preferences to make things easier. Try a small gathering mid-day instead of a large dinner. If long distance relatives have not seen the person with dementia recently, talk with them to describe the changes they may see in the person with dementia to help prepare them for difficult emotions. Watch for signals of fatigue or restlessness and provide a quiet place for rest. With careful planning and the assistance of friends and family everyone can enjoy a happy, healthy holiday celebration.

Here are some additional tips from the Alzheimer’s Association:

  • Encourage involvement in daily life. Help the person feel purpose and value by participating in household tasks — like setting the table.
  • Be aware of physical problems such as tiring quickly, poor vision, hearing or mobility. Plan activities earlier in the day.
  • Look for favorite habits. The person who always enjoyed drinking coffee and reading the newspaper may still find these activities enjoyable, even if he or she is not able to completely understand what the newspaper says.
  • Offer support and supervision. Assist with difficult parts of the task. For instance, when cooking, and the person can’t measure the ingredients, finish the measuring and say, “Would you please stir this for me?”
  • Focus on enjoyment, not achievement.

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