By Rachel Tinaya, LMSW
Alexian Brothers PACE Social Worker
The holidays tend to be a medley of sentimental and stressful time, especially when providing senior care for a loved one who has dementia. As holiday traditions and gatherings approach, we may be reminded of those who are no longer with us, or we may miss the way that Mom/Dad/Spouse was before he or she was affected by the changes of dementia. It is important to make the most of time spent together, even if we wish things were different. Be kind to yourself as you care for your loved one during the holidays- sip some hot cocoa or snuggle up to watch a classic holiday movie- take some moments for self-care TLC!
Whether your family member is in a nursing home, assisted living residence, receiving home health or home care, or simply lives with a family caregiver, holiday stress can affect anyone. As you care for your loved one, here are some holiday tips:
#1 There’s a lot of hustle and bustle this time of year, but it is important to maintain basic daily routines, as peoplewith dementia tend to become anxious or agitated with changes.
#2 Integrate the senses in meaningful activities (sight, smell, taste, feel, and hear):
* Smell a sugar cookie scented candle or air freshener and talk about old times baking together.
* Listen to Christmas music together- perhaps your loved one will join in with some of the words or hum the tune.
* Allow busy hands to fold the cloth napkins for the table or sort cookie cutters before grandchildren come over.
* Offer nibbles of special treats or savory dishes- we all need to indulge a little!
#3 Make sure everyone is able to maintain asense of dignity and respect when visiting with relatives at holiday gatherings. Try not to test your loved one’s memory such as, “Granny, what’s my name?” or “Do you know who that is?” Questions may possibly embarrass someone if they do not remember. Instead, you could simply announce, “Hi Mom! It’s Linda. I’m so glad to see you today!”
During this holiday season and always- may peace soothe your heart; may hope lift your spirit; may love connect you with others; and may joy be shared.