CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – As the holiday season is around the corner, it is important that loved ones with dementia enjoy the holiday season.
The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) provides tips to help families that are affected by dementia enjoy the season in a dementia-friendly way. “The holiday season can be both joyful and stressful for all of us, especially individuals living with a dementia-related illness,” said Jennifer Reeder, LCSW, AFA’s Director of Educational and Social Services. “Being proactive, adaptable, and inclusive of the person’s wishes and abilities are the best ways to help them have a happy and joyful holiday season.”
The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America provides these tips to help families have a dementia-friendly holiday:
- Avoid overdecorating. Decorating is part of the holiday season fun, however, too much stimulation may be challenging for someone with dementia. Keep decorations festive, but simple, because too many flickering lights or noisy items could be overwhelming. Try choosing a few favorite items and phase in decorations over a period of days instead of all at once, so that changes to the person’s environment are less confusing.
- Create a safe and calm space. Don’t use fragile decorations or ones that could be mistaken for edible treats. Be mindful of potential tripping hazards on the floor, like wires for decorations. Securely hook Christmas trees to the wall to avoid falls and use menorahs or kinaras with electric candles. As well as a physically safe environment, create a space where your loved one can sit in comfort and where guests can visit in small groups or one-to-one. As much as possible, maintain the person’s normal routine when scheduling visits.
- Adapt past favorite traditions or create new ones. Build on old traditions when appropriate, like enjoying their favorite music or movies, or looking at pictures of past celebrations. Start new ones that center on activities and events the person enjoys and can do, like touring neighborhood holiday lights. Take a strengths-based and person-centered approach and incorporate what the person can do and what they choose to do now. Focus on those things that bring joy and let go of activities that seem too stressful.
- Involve the person in the planning and preparations. Involve the person by asking what traditions are important to them, it keeps them active and involved and helps you prioritize and plan appropriately. For example, if they always sent out holiday cards or baked holiday cookies and still want to do so, do it together with them. If they can no longer shop for gifts for their loved ones, invite them to help with wrapping the gifts so that they feel they are included.