There's no doubt about it; holidays are a particularly difficult time for caregivers. While the holiday season brings joy and happiness, it's colored with sadness, nostalgia, and stress for those caring for people with Alzheimer's. According to the National Institute on Aging, someone develops Alzheimer’s every 60 seconds, and there are over 5 million Americans currently living with the disease.
During the holidays, caregivers often feel overwhelmed trying to keep up with their routine tasks and celebrating the season with friends and family. It's not easy to maintain traditions, make the holidays special and balance caregiving responsibilities.
Here are some holiday tips for caregivers:
Caregiving Before the Holidays
If you are planning on entertaining during the holidays, it's best to speak with your friends and family before their visits. If there is a significant change in your loved one's mental state, this may be shocking or uncomfortable for those who do not regularly visit.
Visitors often have preconceived ideas or memories from prior holidays of yesteryear that are setting their expectations for this visit. Alzheimer's behaviors are nothing to be ashamed of, but it's best to prepare your family that it will be different than prior years. For children, it is difficult to see a family member act differently than they remember.
You can help mitigate these feelings and ensure interactions are smooth by suggesting beneficial interactions. Encourage your visitors to keep in mind:
- Good Listening
- Avoiding Criticism
A small suggestion to help your loved one feel comfortable is for visitors to wear nametags, which will help them remember who is visiting. If your loved one has difficulty with motor skills, encourage gifts to be placed in gift bags. Gift bags allow your loved one to participate in the festivities, but are much easier for your senior to open.
Caregiving During the Holidays
It’s important to remember that it's your holiday as well, and you should enjoy time celebrating. It's helpful to recruit other family members to care for your senior if you have a large group of people visiting. It's easy for individuals with Alzheimer's to become overwhelmed and anxious in group settings, so extra sets of hands and eyes to watch for troubling signs of overstimulation is encouraged. It is recommended that a quiet room be designated for them to retreat to if they begin to show evidence of stress.
Although your house is decorated for the holidays and normal routines may have shifted, try to keep things as regular as possible. Consider keeping pathways clear of decorations, maintaining standard meal times and having their favorite DVD or TV program at the ready. If your senior suffers from Sundowner's Syndrome, plan on having a Christmas lunch instead of a Christmas dinner. That way, regular bedtime can be observed, and you avoid any unnecessary stress.
One thing caregivers often sacrifice in their role, is relaxation. Although caregiving to your loved one with Alzheimer's is rewarding, it is also exhausting and challenging at times. Be sure to take a moment for yourself this holiday season. Contact one of our Franklin Park Senior Living communities about short-time, respite care. We are happy to care for your loved one and give you some time to rest. Merry Christmas!