Last Updated: December 24, 2018
The holidays are full of family, fun and tradition, but for some caregivers and people living with dementia, this season can also be incredibly stressful.
The holidays bring added obligations like an increased demand on finances, visits from extended family and other stressors which can make the season overwhelming for all. Read our top tips for dementia caregiving that will help you and your senior loved one get through the holidays.
Top Tips for Dementia Caregiving This Holiday Season
Here are 14 tips that will help you not only survive but thrive this holiday season:
1. Avoid crowded and noisy places.
Loud or startline noises can further confuse or frustrate someone living with dementia. Instead, prioritize smaller and more low-key events that won’t add to confusion or stress.
2. Be creative in giving gifts.
Think through safe gifts that a loved one can use and ask people to purchase those gifts. Ideas include clothing, music, photos or videos, or identification bracelets. Also, be sure to put respite care on your own wish list to give yourself a bit of rest and relaxation during or after the holidays.
3. Designate a quiet room.
If you are planning on having family and friends over frequently, choose one room in the house that is specifically for your loved one to escape if things become too hectic for them. Tell your guests to please stay out of that room, leave your loved one alone if they escape to it and explain it is a safe haven from stress.
4. Give yourself permission to say “no.”
You are not obligated to attend every social gathering of the season and you are not obligated to host parties in your home. Remember that each commitment you agree to means that you are also saying no to something else. For instance, time to prepare, relax and time to spend with loved ones.
5. Involve your loved one in holiday preparations.
The holidays are fun and having loved ones participate in the fun can create special memories for you. Decorating cookies, hanging decorations, setting the table, and even wrapping gifts are some examples of things people with dementia can do to help celebrate the holidays.
6. Join a support group.
The holidays can be a tough time for caregivers and people who are in the early stages of dementia. The rate of depression increases during and after the holidays so if you or your loved ones experience any signs of depression, contact a health care professional.
7. Keep traditions alive and well.
Just because a loved one may not remember past traditions does not mean that you can’t continue to honor them. Singing Christmas carols, eating holiday foods, or lighting a menorah can help a loved one with dementia connect to holiday celebrations.
8. Look for signs of caregiver burnout.
As the holidays bring additional financial and time restraints, caregivers are more likely to experience caregiver burnout. Caregiver expert and author Amy Goyer describes caregiver burnout, saying, “The prolonged stress builds up, we are robbed of energy, and sometimes we reach a point of total emotional, mental and physical exhaustion. We may lose motivation completely or feel we just don’t care about our loved ones, our other relationships or our work. We may feel that we’ve lost ourselves in the vastness of caregiving and that nothing we can do will make a difference. If you feel like this most of the time, you may have reached burnout.” Watch for signs which include emotional highs and lows, extreme fatigue and foggy thinking.
9. Maintain routines.
This can be challenging during the holidays when parties go late, but try to keep your loved one on a similar routine so that holiday preparations do not become disruptive.
10. Manage sugar intake.
Avoid alcohol which can lead to depression and increase the risk of falls. Be sure to be cautious of over-indulgence in sugary foods which can also lead to behavioral issues.
11. More meaning, less stuff.
If your to-do list is pages long and you aren’t enjoying the season, take a step back and see what you can cut to enjoy the holidays with your family. It’s a time for giving, a time for family, a time for friends and togetherness. Be kind to yourself, remove some items on your list, freeing up your time to be with and enjoy the presence of loved ones.
12. Prepare out-of-town-guests.
The holidays are a great time to get families together but can be challenging for caregivers and guests alike. Let visiting family and guests know that their loved one may not remember them and explain any known behavioral issues to make yourself and guests feel more comfortable should something arise.
13. Prioritize self-care.
It’s a busy time of year and it can be easy to let your own needs slip. However, taking care of yourself can help you take better care of others. Make time for exercise, healthy meal preparation and time outside, which are all ways to reduce stress during a very stressful time. This is also a good time to start journaling, talking with a friend, going for a walk, or keeping an online blog. These outlets can help you relieve some stress in a positive way.
14. Trust your instincts.
You know more than anyone else how much you as a caregiver and a loved one can handle without feeling overwhelmed. If an event or group of visitors feels like it may be stressful or troublesome give yourself permission to reschedule or decline.
What are some of your tried and true dementia caregiving tips during the holidays? We’d like to hear your suggestions in the comments below.