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The holiday season can be one of the busiest times of the year for Alzheimer’s caregivers. One moment, you’re planning holiday-themed activities and the next you’re speaking with a bunch of guests who haven’t been by in a year.
In order to manage this whirlwind of a season and keep the holidays cheery, it’s helpful to be prepared with a series of tips to get you through this important time in the life of loved ones with Alzheimer’s.
This can be done through a series of creative crafts and activities, some thoughtful decorations, by preparing for family members and managing your own expectations.
Holiday-themed arts and crafts
There are many holiday-themed arts and crafts that people with Alzheimer’s can do. If they are still in the early stage of the disease, they can help you decorate a Christmas tree, make Christmas cards or do other activities that will remind them of their childhood.
For people in the later stages, you can take them through holiday magazines and ask them to pick out images that remind them of what the season means to them, then cut out those images and put them on a bulletin board in their room.
Because people with Alzheimer’s disease tend to best recall memories from their childhood, taking them into the kitchen to help you cook can remind them of baking with their mother or watching their grandmother prepare a holiday meal. This is especially true if a patient still has their sense of smell—the sense most strongly tied to memory.
Decorate their room and other common spaces
For most people, putting up decorations signify the holiday, but you should be mindful when creating a festive space for loved ones with Alzheimer’s. Use electric candles instead of ones that burn, avoid blinking lights and large decorations that might make a loved one confused. Lots and lots of softly played holiday-themed music can also be enjoyable.
Prepare guests to communicate
For family members and friends that don’t visit frequently, especially older children, prepare them to see your loved one. Let them know of any behavior changes, offer communication tips and suggest activities such as looking through an old photo album or reading a holiday classic like The Night Before Christmas.
Host or attend multiple small get-togethers instead of a single large event
While the holidays are all about being together, sometimes having too many people around can make a person with Alzheimer’s from feeling overwhelmed and burnt out from the irregular activity. Invite small groups of people over and make sure there are toys for small children. This will allow your loved one to watch the children play and interact with people in a way that makes them comfortable.
At the end of the day, you understand your loved one’s energy level better than almost anyone, so keep a close eye on it and adjust your plans when you believe it’s necessary. Being flexible is important for caregivers and the people who love a person with Alzheimer’s, and can help make sure the holidays are joyful.
Take care of yourself
During the holidays, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and the hard work required of you. But it’s important to remember to set aside time for yourself. When it comes to your loved one with Alzheimer’s, you can delegate certain tasks to visiting family members. Also remember to keep your own expectations in check, because no matter how hard you try, you can’t bring every Christmas memory back.