Dementia and the Holidays
The holidays can be such a joyful season. Families spending time with loved ones that may not normally have the opportunity to see one another, delicious food, and my personal favorite all of the beautiful lights and decorations.
It’s easy to want to schedule family visits and family time down to the minute, but when some of those family members include ones that have dementia it may be best to consider limiting the number of events that loved one attends as well as limit the amount of time spent and the level of stimulation.
Here are some simple things to consider when building a schedule for holiday time together.
1. Key word: SCHEDULE
Try not to involve your loved one living with dementia in too many, if any, spontaneous events. Having a scheduled and structured visit will allow for easier adjustment if the visit is not going well. It will also keep from having those family members out of their environment for too long periods of time. People that are living with dementia have a limited energy tank and find significant comfort in familiar environments like where they currently live. This may be a senior community, their own home, or the home of another family member. Just like anyone else, when we’re tired, we feel most comfortable where our “stuff” is.
2. Keep it simple.
Many dementia care specialists agree that keeping gatherings as simple as possible will allow for the most pleasant experience. Consider all the family traditions your family holds and then narrow those down to a few you particularly want to preserve with the loved one living with dementia. Consider what can cause sensory overload: excessive aromas, too many food options, and crowd noise of too many family members present (especially young children and pets). Keep things simple. The website, Being Patient, held a brief interview with Teepa Snow who offered up suggestions for simplifying holiday gatherings with loved ones living with dementia.
3. Prepare family members.
If you will be sharing time with family that are not familiar with dementia or are not fully aware of where their loved one is in the disease, make sure to prepare them for any behavioral expressions that may occur, what can trigger those expressions, how to react, and the best interventions. You might find its easiest to share this information in an email so you can send it to multiple recipients and ensure you include details. Summit Resilience Training offers a wonderful article with examples of how to easily word and communicate this information.
Director of Staff Education and Dementia Life
Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant, Certified Dementia Care Specialist