While the holiday season is a wonderful time to enjoy celebrations and traditions with loved ones, it can also be a time of great stress and disappointment for those who are caring for a loved one with dementia.
In order to celebrate the holidays well, it is important for caregivers to adjust expectations and prepare ahead of time.
When making plans, consider what will be most comfortable and enjoyable for the person living with dementia, while keeping safety in mind. Maintain the person’s normal routine as much as possible, so that holiday preparations don’t become disruptive or confusing.
Arrange for a group discussion via telephone, video call, text or email for family and friends to discuss holiday celebrations in advance. Make sure that everyone understands your situation and the safety precautions you’re taking to keep your loved one healthy.
Some people living with Alzheimer’s may experience sundowning and become confused or agitated in the evenings. Consider celebrating earlier in the day to work around this.
Communicate realistic expectations about what you can and cannot do. Sometimes this can create a sense of loss if you have to give up a role you always had, such as hosting or making the sweet potato pie, but think of it as a chance for another family member to start a new tradition.
Give yourself permission to do only what you can reasonably and safely manage–this may mean much smaller and more casual gatherings, if at all.
Focus on the things that bring happiness and let go of activities that seem overwhelming, stressful or too risky. Taking on too many tasks can wear on you.
If you are concerned about COVID-19 or flu, or if the person living with dementia is easily overwhelmed by social interaction, adapt gift giving and ask people to send gifts in the mail rather than delivering them in person. Opening gifts over a video call or phone call can still feel very personal.
Navigating this time of year may be overwhelming or difficult as a caregiver, but it is important to remember that it can still be a time of joy and holiday magic. Focus on building on traditions and memories, and experiment with new traditions that might be less stressful or a better fit with your current situation.
The Alzheimer’s Association 24/7 Helpline is available at all times for advice and support. The California Central Coast Chapter offers free care consultations, education classes and support groups in both English and Spanish. Their Ventura office is located at 2580 E Main Street #201.