Holiday traditions are a very special part of the season. However, when a loved one is diagnosed with dementia, traditions might have to change, and that's okay! Today we share strategies for supporting your loved one through this transition and how to adapt to make the most of the holiday season. Keep in mind, the best tradition is simply spending time with those you love.
Stay Open to Adapting
Let's consider that you and your loved one typically decorate the tree together. You spend time choosing your ornaments and placing them on the tree while listening to holiday music. What if your loved one is no longer able to pick out the ornaments and safely hang them on the tree? What if the music becomes too overwhelming for them? It's important to recognize some signs that your loved one is overwhelmed or frustrated and assist only when necessary and in an encouraging way. Always ask individuals how they are feeling and then suggest other options. Perhaps turn down the music, give them a different task than hanging ornaments like sorting decorations or looking through old holiday photos, and still engage together. Find things that will still be dignifying for your loved one but that also brings them feelings of accomplishment and reminds that things aren't too different.
Find the Best Time
Make note of the best times of day for your loved one with dementia. Typically, persons living with dementia tend to "sundown" during the evening (around 4:00-6:00p.m.). Be aware of this potential challenging time and schedule plans around those times. If it is unavoidable, find activities that are relaxing for your loved one in a quiet, comfortable area. Independent activities are a great way for individuals with dementia to engage at their own pace. Provide them with activities in an encouraging way and if they'd rather do something else, let them! Another helpful strategy is to offer them a light snack to tide them over if you're waiting for a big family dinner.
Activities Can Be Tiring
The holiday season can be hectic, for everyone! For persons with dementia, this can only feel more exhausting. Encourage your loved one to get some extra rest over the holidays. This will help keep everyone happy, healthy, and well rested! As a care partner, it's important to get your rest too!
Communicate with Family and Friends
Not everyone knows the ins and outs of dementia, and that's okay! Open communication with friends and family can help let everyone know how to handle certain situations and make the holidays the most enjoyable! Inform family and friends of the best time to visit, things that might upset your loved one, or activities that they love engaging in! Let your family and friends know that dementia isn't scary and persons living with dementia can still engage and participate in meaningful conversations. Always include individuals with dementia in your conversations and do not dismiss them. Let your loved one know that they are still loved, especially over the holidays, and treat them no differently because of a dementia diagnosis!
Make New Traditions
Perhaps your loved one with dementia can no longer participate in past traditions. That's okay, you can always start new ones! Find activities that they most enjoy and start making traditions that they can do. Providing individuals with activities that they can do are much more important than drawing on their inabilities. Be supportive, encouraging, and patient. Remember the reason for the season and that the holidays are a time to connect and relax.
What are some of your favourite traditions? Share with us in the comments below!