The Key to a Happier Holiday Season
Family gatherings are the heart of the holidays, even when a loved one has Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. With thoughtful planning and preparation, everyone can enjoy a wonderful holiday season and engage in time-honored family traditions.
“Families may need to adjust their expectations and tweak their holiday events a bit so that their loved one living with dementia and family caregiver can be part of the celebration,” says Kelsey Burback, director of sales and marketing for Encore Memory Care at South Barrington.
Plan for Joy
Successful planning starts with open and honest communication. The primary caregiver should inform family and friends about any changes they see in the person living with dementia and share safety precautions they’re taking to help keep their loved one healthy.
“It’s important to be realistic about what you can and cannot do during the holidays,” says Burback. She suggests that families and friends arrange for a group discussion via telephone, video call, messaging app or email to discuss holiday celebrations ahead of time.
Families can decide together if it makes sense to celebrate earlier in the day to work around sundowning, which happens when some people living with Alzheimer’s become confused or agitated in the evenings.
Relatives can also plan for ways to involve their loved one living with dementia in holiday activities. Some simple, safe, and festive options include baking cookies, hanging ornaments on the tree, sharing photos from past gatherings, watching a classic movie, or listening and singing along to holiday music.
Less Equals More Cheer
“Keep in mind that party size does matter,” says Burback. She notes that a few smaller gatherings instead of a large party may be more relaxing and enjoyable for the loved one who has Alzheimer’s and their caregiver.
When it’s not possible to come together in person, family can connect through technology by using video call software like Zoom or Skype to gather virtually. Consider that having too many people on video talking at once may confuse and agitate the person with dementia.
The holidays can be filled with highs and lows for anybody, but it also has its challenges when dementia is involved. A sense of humor and grace will help.
“If your loved one repeats themselves, forgets family members’ names, becomes emotional, or exhibits other out-of-character behavior, remember that it is because of the disease and is not personal,” says Jennifer La Porte, director of sales and marketing for Encore Memory Care at Crystal Lake. “A little patience and grace will go a long way toward creating a peaceful holiday experience for all.”
Give the Gift of Self-Care
Know that it is okay to ask for help when needed. The Alzheimer’s Association provides a free 24/7 helpline at (800) 272-3900. Encore Memory Care offers free, monthly Alzheimer’s Caregiver Support Groups as follows:
- Encore Memory Care at Bolingbrook – 3rd Wednesday, 3 to 4pm
- Encore Memory Care at Crystal Lake – 3rd Monday, 1 to 2:30pm
- Encore Memory Care of South Barrington – 4th Wednesday, 11:30am to 1pm.
Caregivers should take time for self-care, which can be challenging to do so during the hectic holiday season. After the celebration is over, respite stays offer caregivers a well-deserved break and their loved one a secure and engaging change of pace.
Encore Memory Care communities offer short-term stays for those with early, mid-stage, and advanced Alzheimer’s. Respite guests have access to a comfortable home, caregivers who specialize in memory support, and all of the same services and amenities as full-time residents. Family members can rest assured knowing that their loved ones are being well cared for while caregivers recharge their batteries.
To learn more about Encore Memory Care’s support groups or lifestyle visit or contact the community most convenient to you:
- Encore Memory Care at Bolingbrook at (630) 759-0797
- Encore Memory Care at Crystal Lake at (815) 459-7800
- Encore Memory Care at South Barrington at (847) 844-1205