It is November, and for most of us that means gearing up for the holidays, family and memorable events. The first two are true of almost everyone, but the third one – memorable – can be a huge challenge to caregivers and patients with Alzheimer’s Disease. Caregivers to a loved one whose mental faculties are declining from Alzheimer’s Disease can face a lot of challenges, not the least among them the guilt that can come from hosting a holiday get together when things just cannot be the way they used to be.
Here are some tips for caregivers to a loved one with Alzheimer’s or any of the dementias that may affect memory:
- Take care of the caregiver: The person whose needs most often are at the bottom of the list is the caregiver to an AD patient. Do something for you, and it will make it easier to do all those other things for all those other people.
- Be realistic: We all tend to have a notion about what the “holiday is supposed to be.” That may not be feasible when a loved one has Alzheimer’s, so work within the capabilities and the comfort zones of all concerned.
- Include everyone in the plan: If you talk over plans for the holiday with all the family, it can help all to enjoy the event. Everyone will have had a say in what happens and expectations will be better met.
- Avoid over-doing the alcohol: There is a great deal of loneliness in being a caregiver to a loved one in decline, so avoid the inclination to self-medicate. If you as a caregiver already feel melancholy, alcohol will only fuel the depression.
- Let visitors know: If visiting family does not know exactly what to expect from a loved one with AD, they probably will not act appropriately. Help them to understand about talking and living in the moment.
- Let your loved one know: For patients with early onset AD, there can be moments of lucidity as well as confusion. Help them to also be in the moment and not lapse into the sadness or even the angry outbursts that can come from AD’s confusion.
- Manage the environment: AD can be confusing enough without exacerbating the challenge with a noisy environment. Helping your loved one to engage people in quieter surroundings can help everyone communicate better.
As you navigate through the holidays, appreciate that they may not be as they once were before the intrusion of Alzheimer’s, but you are making new memories for you and the rest of the family. With attention to some of these tips, you will find that the new experiences will help everyone’s holidays to be their own new memories to cherish.
Charlotte Bishop is a Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Care Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago. Please email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.