The holidays are a wonderful time for family and friends to come together and celebrate. However, for families living with Alzheimer’s, the holidays can be challenging, especially as a caregiver. Take a deep breath. With some planning and adjusted expectations, the holidays can still be happy, memorable occasions spent with loved ones. Since the holidays are always filled with emotions, it can help to let guests know what to expect before they arrive. If your loved one is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, relatives and friends may not notice any changes. However, your loved one may have trouble following conversation or may repeat themselves. Explain to your family how they can help with communication by being patient, not interrupting or correcting, and giving them time to finish their thoughts.
If your loved one is in the middle or late stages of Alzheimer’s, there may be significant changes in cognitive abilities since the last time friends or relatives have visited. These changes can be hard to accept. Make sure visitors understand that the changes in behavior and memory that have happened are caused by the disease and not the person. It is also important that during the holidays you adjust your and others expectations. Here are some tips how:
- Be good to yourself: Give yourself permission to do only what you are able to reasonably manage. If you have always invited 15 to 20 people to your home, consider paring it down to a few guests for a simple meal. Allow others to contribute by having a potluck dinner or asking them to host dinner at their home. You also may want to consider breaking large gatherings up into smaller visits of two or three people at a time to keep your loved on and yourself from getting overtired.
- Call a meeting to discuss upcoming plans: The stress of caregiving responsibilities along with holiday traditions can take its toll. Invite family and friends to a face-to-face meeting or set up a telephone conference call. At this meeting, make sure everyone understands your caregiving situation and has realistic expectations about what you can do. Be honest with them about any limitations or needs you and your loved one might have, such as keeping a daily routine.
- Do a variation on a theme: If evening confusion and agitation are a problem for your loved one, consider changing a holiday dinner into a holiday lunch or brunch. If you do keep the celebration at night, make sure to keep the room well-lit and try to avoid any known triggers.