Creating a Memorable Holiday for Someone with Alzheimer’s
The holiday season is something many of us look forward to all year. For many, it is a time to celebrate with family and friends.
If you have a loved one who lives with Alzheimer’s disease, the season’s festivities can present a few challenges. Explaining what is going on to them and to visitors who might not be aware of their situation is sometimes awkward. Here are a few tips that may help:
• Prepare visitors ahead of time. If friends and family who will be visiting aren’t aware your loved one has Alzheimer’s or don’t know what to expect, communicate with them ahead of time. Something as simple as an email that says “We know it has been a while since you’ve been to our home and we are looking forward to your visit. Since we’ve seen you last, Mom’s Alzheimer’s has progressed. She sometimes has difficulty remembering old friends and loved ones, so don’t be surprised if she doesn’t recognize you. Her behavior can also be a bit unpredictable at times. Please don’t be offended by any of this. We know Mom will be happy to spend time with you even if she can’t express it.”
• Prepare your loved one for visitors. If these are new friends they haven’t met or even old friends they might not remember, a memory board can help. Print out photos of planned visitors and glue them to a piece of cardboard or foam board. Use a bold marker and write each visitor’s name below their photo. Do this a week or two before your scheduled event. Start reviewing the board with them every day and talking about each guest.
• Consider the party environment. According to TheHomeDweller research, just having a house full of people can cause the noise level in your home to increase significantly. That alone can be tough on someone living with Alzheimer’s disease. Try choosing a few soft CDs for the evening. Also avoid flashing or twinkling holiday lights. They can be disorienting for someone with dementia.
• Take into account the time of day. Try to work around your loved one’s best times of the day when planning your party. If they’re at their best in the mornings,consider hosting a brunch instead of a cocktail party.
• Put together a quiet space for your loved one. Parties often create agitation for someone living with Alzheimer’s disease. Take time before the event to prepare a quiet place for them to retreat to if things get to be too much. Have soft music ready to play and a few repetitive tasks for them to do. Both may help decrease their agitation. Tasks to have on hand could include a basket of towels to fold, photos or a deck of playing cards to sort, or coupons to cut. Depending on who the visitors to the party will be, you may be able to ask guests to visit one on one with your loved one during this time. That will allow everyone to spend time with your loved one without overwhelming them.
Lori Thomas has decades of experience as a caregiver. Her writing for SeniorAdvice.com is informed by years of research as well as hands-on family experience caring for her now late mother, who had chronic health issues for most of her life. Lori is an integral part of the SeniorAdvice.com management team, acting as Vice President of Marketing and Chief Editor.