Caregiving for a loved one who has cognitive impairment can leave caregivers feeling that they will not be able to enjoy the holidays with others. Instead of experiencing the joy and goodwill of the season, many caregivers experience more stress and anxiety during this time.
Allow other family members to host the holiday meal and not the caregiver. Being the primary caregiver to a loved one with Alzheimer’s/dementia can be emotionally and physically exhausting. Family members or close friends offering to host the festivities is a supportive/helpful gesture.
If hosting the holiday at the caregiver’s home is the only option, be sure that everyone brings a dish and helps with the preparations and clean up.
Everyone has to remember that our loved ones with cognitive impairment are not always able to adapt to changes and a difference in routine. Too much noise/conversation can be over-stimulating. To avoid the anxiety, they may need a quiet place to be with a few family members at a time.
Know how long your loved one can be away from their “Safe Place” without causing behaviors and fatigue.
During group gatherings, have everyone wear name tags and consider having the dinner prior to sundown – a time frame which prompts “late-day confusion” for those with Alzheimer’s/dementia. When conversing, speak in a calm tone, and don’t correct or press your loved one to remember events or names. For their safety, block access to stairwells and cooking areas.
The support of family members and friends can make a big difference for caregivers and their loved one during the holiday season. Creating an environment of compassion and understanding in which everyone pitches in to help will help reduce caregiver stress and allow them to make time for themselves to relax and enjoy family – a gift they will certainly appreciate and cherish.
Linda Carrasco is the President and COO of Memory Care America with over 20 years of experience in health care administration, social work and admissions with a focus on geriatric care, palliative/hospice, management and leadership.