How to Survive the Holidays When Your Loved One Has Alzheimers
For some of us, this is the most magical, most spectacular, most exciting part of our year. We sit in anticipation of watching our loved ones open gifts and seeing their happy faces. We’re surrounded by the smells of holiday cooking, the thought of which already has our mouths watering at SeaCare for food we’ve been missing since last holiday season.
We don’t want to dampen the party. We really don’t. But as magical and spectacular and exciting as this time of year is, we also want to make sure that it remains that way for those who might be suffering from Alzheimer’s and Dementia. And we want to try and make it just a little easier for their family and friends. So, we’ve taken the time to make a list of tips and tricks to keep your holidays smooth and enjoyable.
Be Gentle With Yourself
It's OK for you to be stressed and disappointed that this holiday season isn’t what you expected it to be. And it’s perfectly normal for a sense of loss and grief to settle in as you watch your loved one change into someone that you don't know as well, particularly during a time when we all cling to our traditions. It’s alright to be sad that things are changing.
Let yourself feel these things. Forgive yourself if you feel guilty for feeling them, and take solace in the fact that you are not alone. Take a minute to acknowledge that this is a difficult time and that your feelings are valid.
Concentrate on the Positives
After you’ve taken a little time to acknowledge any feelings of sadness and disappointment you might have, start to look for the silver lining. Maybe this would include new traditions, and the joy that your family can still be together this year.
Life is complicated. You’re allowed to feel immense joy and happiness at the same time that you’re feeling overwhelmed and sad.
Take Time Now to Prepare Your Loved Ones
If you’re expecting people to travel to you for the holidays, take a little time to prepare friends and family for the changes you’ve noticed in your loved one suffering from Alzheimer’s or Dementia. Explain, especially to the younger children who may have a harder time with it, that your parent or grandparent may not remember who they are. Plan out your visit ahead of time so that everyone knows what to expect.
For your your loved one, that might be experiencing their own disappointment and fear that they are changing and forgetting. Involve them in the plan and prepare them as far ahead a time as you can.
Create a Quiet and Safe Place
Routines are an important part of coping with Alzheimer’s, and the holidays can disrupt those routines completely. Create a quiet safe place for your loved one to escape to if they start feeling overwhelmed. Remember to check in with them periodically and remind them that it’s OK to leave the festivities if they need a break.
We’ve included a short list of sources that include more tips and tricks for adapting to your new normal, for this holiday season and beyond. We’d love it if you commented below with your tips and tricks for making it through this time of year, including any new traditions you’ve found or routines that have worked for you. The holidays are about family and community, and SeaCare is happy to have you as a part of ours.