The holiday season is a time of year that many look forward to spending time with family and friends. For some–especially older adults living with dementia–the hustle and bustle, lights, and commotion can trigger unwanted behaviors. As a former caregiver to my father, I recall how hard our first holiday season was during his final year suffering from dementia. But I am also thankful that my family took the initiative to ensure that my dad enjoyed it. Today I want to share three tips with you on enjoying your elderly love one this holiday season:
- Go with their flow. They may not know the cause behind the celebration, but I believe something about being included sparks joy for them. So, if in the days leading up to the holiday season you see your loved one struggling with the blues, keep that in mind as you make plans. If your loved one is living at home with you, find ways to keep their stress levels down.
- Remember old traditions that they once enjoyed. There is something about bringing your loved one back in time–even if only briefly–that offers them a few moments of lucidity and inclusion. It’s a beautiful moment of knowing you were able to put a smile on their face or remind them of an old memory.
- Please don’t disrupt their routines, no matter how tempting it may be. Keep feeding times and bedtimes consistent. If you plan to have other family over, plan dinner close to the expected time your loved one with dementia usually eats. Consider what makes them tick and plan around them. It’s easier to plan around them than to have your loved one navigate the hustle and bustle that this time of year brings.
As we consider those we care for with dementia this holiday, remember that a caretaker’s goal is truly to ensure that dementia doesn’t rob those diagnosed with it from still living their best life. Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year!
Resia M. Cooper is a student at Salisbury University and a social work intern at Jenerations Health Education, Inc. She has two beautiful children and is a military wife to her amazing husband.