The holidays can be a wonderful time for most people, but for those living with memory loss, the season can bring feeling of anxiety and confusion. There is a dazzling array of bright colors, lights, and loud sounds that can be frightening or overstimulating to some Alzheimer’s disease patients. Of course, not everyone reacts negatively to the holiday stimulus. Those who enjoyed the season in years past will likely enjoy doing activities they remember, such as singing carols, decorating a tree, or helping set the festive table.
There are almost 6 million people with Alzheimer’s disease, and they have over 16 million caregivers to support them. Most of those caregivers are family, which tends to add more stress to the season. There is a learning curve each year as to how your loved one feels about, and reacts to, the coming holiday season. With a little planning, and with some adjusted expectations, you can all hopefully enjoy your holidays a little bit more.
Include Your Loved One In Activities
There are plenty of activities that are both festive and easy to do for almost any level of memory loss. Try creating some arts and crafts together, which can stimulate the brain and the senses, as well as allow your loved one the freedom to express themselves as they see fit. Always supervise activities, as a patient with Alzheimer’s disease may not know not to grab the craft knife or scissors by the blade. Arts and crafts are best done in an easy to clean area, such as the kitchen or dining room, so that any mess can be cleared away with little fuss.
Not every activity will appeal to every person, but here are a few tips and suggestions to help keep your season as cheerful and bright!
Simple Activities Can Bring Great Results
One easy project is making a rag wreath to hang on the door. All you need is a wire wreath frame (or piece of wire bent into a circle) and plenty of different colored fabric, torn or cut into strips that are 1-1.5 inches wide and 4-6 inches long. Then you simply tie the strips to the wire, one at a time. This is a project that might be best done over a period of days, as it can take several hours to finish. It is a great project to do with visiting family, no matter their ages. For inspiration, you can go to pinterest.com and see all the different wreaths that people have made.
Another fun and simple activity for your loved one is making cards or ornaments out of potato print snowflakes. You can make your potato prints any shape you like, but festive ones, such as a tree, snowflake, or snowman shape, help keep the activity seasonal. Then, using a non-toxic ink, such as a stamp pad or tempera paint, you stamp the potato in the ink, and press the design into your paper of choice.
Martha Stewart has a nice easy way to cut a stamp using a cookie cutter and paring knife, which you should of course do for your loved one if they can’t handle a sharp edge. You can also let your loved one draw a design by hand and cut it out for them. Then create cards to send to family, ornaments to hang on the tree or mantle, or decorate placemats for your family’s holiday dinner.
Patients With Alzheimer’s Disease Can Still Have Holiday Cheer
Alzheimer’s or other dementia means that your loved one may have a hard time remembering certain activities, people, or life events. That doesn’t mean your loved one is totally unaware of the festive mood. You can include them in your own festivities by letting them help you decorate! For some, that means helping to hang up ornaments or set up decorations. For others, it means sitting in the room while a caregiver puts up decorations, hopefully with music and cheer. In either case, talk with your loved one and let them be a part of getting ready for the season.
When decorating your house, remember not to use any wax fruit or ornaments that look like food. A person with Alzheimer’s may not recognize it as a decoration and try to eat it. Watch out for tinsel and glitter, as both can cause trouble if ingested. Try to keep the decorations as simple as possible, since too much clutter can make it difficult for someone with memory loss issues to focus. Leave one room undecorated, as a safe space for your loved one to retreat to. By following a few easy preventative measures, you can help make your holiday season a little easier.
Family Gatherings With Alzheimer’s Disease
You don’t need to forgo gathering the family together for the holidays if you take a little time to prepare a plan, and to adjust people’s expectations. If your loved one doesn’t respond well to groups, have people visit in pairs or singly, and plan a time when the whole family can gather together outside of the home. If you do have people over in a group, make sure to have a space that your loved one can retreat to if needed. Remind those who are coming from out-of-town that your loved one has memory issues, and lay out any rules that the visitors should know.
If your loved one lives in a facility like Landmark Memory Care, there are several ways to enjoy the holiday season together. Try visiting throughout the season, not just at the holidays, since most people try to visit on a holiday. If your loved one is capable, then you can also take them out to a special place for a holiday surprise. You can help your loved one decorate their space at the facility with holiday themed items, especially any cards from family. Do other inclusionary things such as sing carols with them, read holiday stories, or generally make merry with your loved one to brighten the season.
Don’t Forget To Take Care Of Yourself
Remember to make your own memories of each holiday with your loved one, finding the bright moments to hold onto. You may watch your loved one struggle with the loss of their memory, but you can still make your own happy memories along the way. If you need some time away during the holidays, don’t be afraid to ask your friends and family for the gift of Respite Care. Your friends and family can come watch your loved one for a few hours to allow you a chance to do what you want. There are facilities that offer respite care too, but they may be hard to book at the peak of the season.
At Landmark Memory Care we help people live their life to the fullest while keeping them supplied with the care they need. Our residents take advantage of integrated therapies, around the clock care, and even go on outings to the surrounding area! To find out more about the types of services we offer, contact us today.