The holidays can be a time of equal parts sentimentality and stress for any family. But, when you add in a loved one with dementia, those experiences can intensify.
Learn more from Mara Botonis, author of “When Caring Takes Courage,” about how to help loved ones have more fun during the holidays.
It seems like every commercial and cover is heralding the season with picture perfect images to strive for. The most common ideal holiday images seem to contain artfully decorated holiday cookies and home decorating ideas that incorporate every color scheme imaginable, putting design teams to shame.
Images of children playing with the latest toy, husbands gasping with glee as they notice the shiny new car in the driveway, or the image of the smiling wife opening a small box containing a dazzling diamond gift are everywhere.
Ideas for enjoying the holidays all seem to center around the kind of traditions that you can see and touch. There’s no shortage of voices encouraging you to “get in the holiday spirit” with thoughts on what to do. But what if all that really matters to you is how you and those around you feel?
Ways to Help Loved Ones with Dementia Enjoy the Festivities
Here are some tips to keep in mind as a caregiver for a loved one with dementia this holiday season:
1. Be inclusive.
Help your loved one feel like they are involved no matter where they are in the disease process by:
- Encouraging reminiscing
- Asking for their help with easy activities
- Including them in conversations
- In later stages, simply offering a reassuring word or gentle touch
2. Be forgiving.
Forgiving of yourself, your loved one, your family. No one is perfect. Mistakes are going to happen, things may have been said or done by your loved one or other family members that caused stress, but your ability to move past that and set it aside can only support a happier holiday for all of you. Let go of past hurts, if not forever, that at least for now.
3. Offer your loved one your best self.
At least for part of each day. You know this version of you, the one that got enough sleep and feels appreciated and loved, the version of you that is patient and kind. The version of you that gives your loved one your undivided attention and avoids criticizing or correcting them. Find that version of you and be that person for your loved one as often as you can.
4. Redefine success.
Start and end your day focused on making more moments that really matter by identifying what is most important to you this year. The person we love is battling a progressive, incurable disease. Each holiday after this one will likely be harder on them, with them being able to enjoy things less and less. Keeping this in mind may help you feel better about saying “no” to things that might take you away from what is most impactful for you both. Maybe this is the year you forgo getting the holiday cards mailed or baked goods distributed and instead, this is the year you spent time each day cuddled up on the couch together under a soft warm blanket for a few minutes feeling truly connected.
It’s okay to spend time preparing for and enjoying all of the “things” that make up the holidays, but putting feelings ahead of the festivities for you and your loved one may end up being the best gift, the best way to celebrate the season of all.
How do you help your loved ones with dementia enjoy the holidays? Share your suggestions and stories with us in the comments below.
- Shifting Your Paradigm in Approaching People with Dementia
- Retaining Your Own Sanity as an Alzheimer’s Caregiver
- How Caregiving Is an Honor and a Privilege