By Jan Hanneke, LMSW
For many families this saying brings feelings of comfort, joy and warmth; but for others, the holidays are a time for inconsistent routine, too many people, and an increase in confusion.
Many times, the holidays can raise red flags that “Mom, wasn’t this bad last year” or “How did Grandpa forget who I was, I just saw him for Thanksgiving.” Families can start to see more memory loss, increased confusion and disorientation in their loved ones with cognitive impairment.
People with dementia benefit from a consistent, structured, daily routine with meaningful activities, but not overstimulation. The holidays do not always favor consistency, restfulness, and quiet. If you are experiencing challenges around the holidays here are a few tips:
- Find the right balance: It is easy to get wrapped-up in shopping, family dinners, and holiday traditions. It is great to encourage your loved one to stay engaged, but keep his/her routine as consistent as possible during these times.
- Schedule quiet time: It is common for a person living with dementia to tire more quickly. They may not recognize their own feelings of fatigue, so caregivers need to plan for quiet down-time. This will help prevent challenging behaviors and promote better sleep.
- Avoid overstimulation: Because your loved one is not able to follow multiple conversations at one time, being in a room with many family members can be uncomfortable. Try having your loved one with dementia away from the central gathering area, but plan a rotation of family members for one-on-one conversation.
- Reminisce about past holidays: Use this time to talk about holidays past, present and future. Discuss favorite traditions growing up, holiday blunders or favorite songs and folk tales. These are perfect ways to engage a person living with dementia and allow them to participate in conversations with familiar memories.