This time of year is full of holiday cheer, spending time with family, friends, and loved ones, and spreading joy. Traditions are honored, lights are hung, snowmen come to life, and memories are made – don’t forget the hot cocoa with marshmallows too!
With all the joy in the air and as the holiday season is soon to be in full swing, is vitally important to recognize it can be rife with pressure and oftentimes unrealistic expectations. The pressures can escalate if we are either caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or related dementias or your loved one is being cared for by others. Often times, feelings of guilt, loss, or sadness can arise. Recognizing these tips can help keep the stress to a minimum.
The holidays are the perfect time of year to honor and practice traditions of your loved one. It’s important to honor the essence of who that person is. Cater to their senses with favorite foods, images, scents and music. Talking to your loved one, asking questions and engaging them in conversation may uncover other special, unforetold morsels of their history.
It’s also crucial not to overwhelm or set too high of expectations with respect to your loved one’s abilities, especially as their disease progresses. It’s essential to adjust with Alzheimer’s. Focus on meaningful activities, keeping in mind that some activities that were once easy may now be too difficult. If you used to go together to pick out a tree and if that is not possible anymore have them help decorate the tree. Let them add their personal touch by picking out the ornaments. Keep it simple: reminisce, watch an old movie from your loved one’s era, etc. Engage them in holiday traditions, even if they aren’t physically able to participate. It’s truly about including them in the moment. If they used to make a family favorite Christmas cookie every year, have them help YOU make a batch. Even if they are just your taste-tester that’s okay – after all they do know best! 😉 It’s all about bringing the love to them.
As a caregiver, it’s important to reduce as much stress as you can. Be sure to set realistic expectations. As your loved one has changed, so too, must you. Be realistic, perfection is simply unrealistic – no matter who you are. Allow yourself to let go and be in the moment allows others to do so too. Adjust old routines and traditions to your loved one’s current abilities and energy level. Be supportive of your loved one. Be sensitive to how they express anxiety, fatigue, and exhaustion and responding to those cues can make sure celebrations are enjoyed by all!
The hustle and bustle of the holiday can be overwhelming and over stimulating to someone with Alzheimer’s or related dementias. Just keep in mind, it’s all about the journey, not the destination. Focus on being in the moment with your loved one: embrace having a cup of tea or that cup hot cocoa with marshmallows, listening to music, looking through photo albums together, and singing songs. Most importantly enjoy every moment of your holiday season.