The holiday period is the perfect time to spend with friends and loved ones and for those with Alzheimer’s disease, this extended period of contact can be very enriching. Maintaining or adapting rituals and traditions gives those with Alzheimer’s a comfortable link to the past. However, a change in routine can be difficult for an Alzheimer’s sufferer to cope with so it’s important that you try to maintain some kind of structure to their day.
If you’re spending time these holidays with a loved one who has Alzheimer’s disease, these tips may help you manage the situation for the best outcome.
Strike the right balance
- If you’re a constant caregiver, the holidays can result in extra demands so it’s important that you take time out for yourself. If family is visiting, encourage them to pick up some of the slack.
- Set your own limits and make sure visitors know what they are. You’re best placed to understand exactly with what you and the person you care for can cope.
- Involve the person with Alzheimer’s in some of the simpler preparations if they’re capable of doing so. Doing something familiar will hopefully bring back happy memories and help them feel more connected to the festivities.
- Encourage people to visit even if they find it quite confronting, Stimulation through conversation and socialising can be incredibly comforting for those with Alzheimer’s.
- Have some quiet activities on standby just in case it become too much for the Alzheimer’s sufferer. Consider some photo albums, a separate room for them to escape to or a favourite movie on TV.
- If possible, try to have people over to the person with Alzheimer’s home rather than take them to unfamiliar, noisy places.
- If you’re invited to an event that the person you care for can’t attend, ask a friend or family member to look after them – it’s important that you don’t miss out.
- If your guests haven’t had much experience with Alzheimer’s, it can be quite confronting, especially if they haven’t seen that person in some time. Explain that sometimes they won’t be able to remember things but they’re not stupid or deaf, there’s no need to speak to the slowly or loudly.
- Let guests know of any particular behaviours that the sufferer may have. If they’re prone to lashing out, wandering, experiencing incontinence or anything else, don’t let it come as a surprise.
- It’s important to let people know that the person affected by Alzheimer’s may not remember them but that it’s not personal.
- Explain that memory loss is simply part of the disease.
- Ensure they understand that the contact and interaction with them is worth more than what the person remembers.
Preparing the person for whom you care
- Show photos of the guests to the person with Alzheimer’s on the lead up to the visit and explain who they are and their relationship.
- If the Alzheimer’s sufferer is able to speak on the phone, or better still via Facetime or similar, arrange a call before the visit.
- Keep routines as normal as possible.
- Look for signs of fatigue and schedule rest time.
For more information on managing Alzheimer’s over the holiday period, visit Alzheimer’s Australia.