The holidays can be a stressful time for anyone, especially if you have a loved one with dementia. There are so many people to see, places to go and things to do! But it’s also important that you take a moment to focus on your caregiving responsibilities.
Here are 5 tips you can use to make this holiday season special when you are caring for a loved one with dementia.
1. Create an environment that feels safe and secure
No matter where you go, try to create an environment that feels safe and secure. If you are visiting loved ones in a different home, make sure their home has a comfortable bed, soft pillows, and plenty of light will make your loved one feel at ease. Additionally, it is important to keep things neat and tidy so there is no clutter or mess for them to worry about.
Create a routine for your loved one during the holidays, so they know what to expect each day and can anticipate what will happen next. This will also give them something positive to look forward to each day instead of feeling overwhelmed by all of the changes in their daily lives due to dementia symptoms like confusion or forgetfulness.
Make sure there are no hazards around the house, such as sharp utensils or heavy furniture that could cause injury if knocked over by someone with dementia who isn’t aware of his/her surroundings. If there is a nearby set of staircases, make sure it is blocked off so your loved one can avoid any serious accidents.
Make sure there are no distractions like TVs blaring loudly in different rooms (this can cause confusion), or loud music playing, since these things might make it difficult for them to focus and make them confused. You want to create an environment that can allow you to have fun together as a family unit.
2. Invite your loved one to perform simple tasks
Invite your loved one to perform simple tasks. If you’re hosting a holiday gathering, consider asking your loved one to help with simple tasks such as easy crafts or helping you wrap gifts during the event. It’s also a good idea to include them by asking them to make cards for friends and family members (or just for their own enjoyment). These activities will give your loved one something positive to do and allow them to feel like they’re still an active member of the family. It also gives you an opportunity to show off their talents by hanging up some of their hand-made decorations around the house!
Don’t isolate your loved one from social interactions. Too often, people with dementia are treated like children who need constant supervision and attention at holiday gatherings—and this can cause them stress as well as make others uncomfortable around them. Instead, try including them in the conversation whenever possible: have them join the group during games, dinner, and other activities. Even if they don’t say much, being included will help them feel needed.
3. Stay calm, no matter what
Stay calm, no matter what. It’s easy to get frustrated when your loved one doesn’t remember how to do something that was once second nature. This can be especially true if he or she is getting confused about the holiday itself. For example, some people with dementia may believe it’s still summer and not understand why you’re putting up decorations for Christmas until December rolls around again. They might also believe they’ve already had their birthday and wonder why you’re buying them presents when they’re technically a year older than they are currently being treated as. Whatever the situation, staying calm is the best course of action. When you stay calm, it helps them stay calm as well.
Don’t yell at, or scold, your loved one if he or she gets lost in the house or forgets who you are. These kinds of situations can be especially upsetting during holidays when families tend to spend more time together than usual; however, it is important not to let this upset affect your demeanor towards him/her because doing so may cause them additional stress which will only cause further confusion down the line (and possibly even make things worse).
4. Plan time for rest
It’s important to take time for rest and relaxation during the holidays. You’ll be better able to care for your loved one if you’re rested and relaxed. Make sure you schedule regular breaks in your day, especially if there are other people helping out at home who can fill in. Napping is a good way to catch up on some extra rest!
You may also want to get some exercise each day—some simple walks around the neighborhood or outside will do wonders, but even just a few minutes of stretching can make all the difference. And even though the holidays are full of fun treats and goodies, make sure you don’t overload on sweets. Try eating healthy foods, too—the body needs energy from food so it can stay strong.
5. Enjoy the moments you can share together
Remind yourself that you are doing your best, and don’t beat yourself up for not being able to do everything perfectly.
Make every moment count. Don’t let a bad day get in the way of making good memories with your loved one—even if they don’t end up remembering them later on. Gather around the table together, tell stories about your childhoods together, dance in the living room (if it’s allowed), make hot chocolate or hot cider—whatever works! The important thing is to make sure that these moments are special and memorable for everyone involved.
Remember that it’s not your fault if dementia causes someone in your life to act differently than they normally would during holiday celebrations. Their behavior is not a reflection on you or your relationship with them; it’s a symptom of the disease. Try not to take anything personally, and if necessary, step away from the situation for a bit so that you don’t get frustrated or upset.
If you’re caring for an elderly loved one with dementia, these tips can help you create a warm and welcoming environment during the holidays. Remember to do your best, make meaningful moments with your loved one, and if all else fails, just keep calm. You’re doing the best that you can.
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