Dementia and the Holidays
Holidays: a time for gathering, good cheer, and giving. If you are caring for a loved one with dementia, you are no stranger to being a giver. You give your time, energy, patience, support and so much more to someone who’s now in need. Let’s face it, even the best of us can feel frazzled around the holidays and if you’re caring for someone with dementia, you probably have a few extra worries on your mind. Exploring those feelings and gathering information can help equip you with the tools needed to have a successful occasion.
During the holidays I commonly hear the following from caregivers: “I’m debating bringing Mom to the holiday gathering, I feel guilty if I don’t but if I do I’m afraid Mom might have an episode.” First check with your loved one’s physician to determine if he or she is healthy enough to travel and can handle the high stimulation of the holidays. As the primary caregiver you likely know better than anyone else what is best. If your loved one cannot travel then feelings of guilt commonly set in but rest assured that making an informed decision to guarantee the health and safety of your loved one is the most loving thing you can do for that person.
If Mom can travel the next step is giving everyone a heads up. An email with information on what dementia is and how to interact your loved one will be a huge help for everyone. Below are some simple tips you can copy/paste into your email:
7 Tips for Talking to Someone with Dementia
- Approach from the front so as not to startle
- Converse at eye level
- Never argue or disagree; instead, join their reality keeping topics positive
- Keep it simple; stick to short specific statements
- Reminisce – in general, older memories are easier to recall than recent ones
- If an upset occurs, acknowledge their feelings and redirect with a change of scenery or new topic
- Don’t be offended if you are not remembered in the moment; it’s not you, it’s the dementia
Expanding on #3, joining their reality is very important. Your loved one may lack short term memory but can recall a memory from 30 years past, possibly even believing they are actually in it. If Mom smells cookies and believes her mother is in the kitchen baking, encourage those around you at the gathering to go with it! You might say, “Yes, they smell so good! What kind of cookies are they?” Do not argue with them; instead, join their reality.
No matter what you decide this holiday season remember to be kind to yourself, think of things in a positive light and be thankful that your loved one has someone like you looking after their needs. Your Mom, Dad, family member or friend may seem different with dementia but they are still here with you and their souls are still the same. Whether they are able to express it or not they are thankful for you as I’m sure you are thankful for them.