The calendar reminds us that Thanksgiving is only a week away and soon after comes Christmas. As much as we enjoy the family time, the abundance of good food and the reminders to be thankful – we also have to remember how stressful this time can be – especially for someone who suffers from Alzheimer’s or dementia.
So here are seven tips to remember as we move into the holidays:
Don’t expect a dementia or Alzheimer’s loved one to make any food.
For the last few years, Mom tried to figure out a recipe so she would feel like she was part of the festivities. But as we watched her struggle to find pots and pans, worry about the cost of groceries and wonder if she had made her salad – hundreds of times over – we realized it was time to stop expecting Mom to cook.
If your loved one wants to shop for gifts, plan ahead for this adventure.
Be prepared with a list and know the easiest way to get in and out of the stores. Forget about Black Friday shopping.
Be patient, take plenty of time and be prepared to answer many questions. If possible, buy everything in one store. Then go home.
Include some of your loved ones’ favorite foods.
My mom will want pecan pie. None of the cooks in our family makes a decent pecan pie. So we’re planning to buy one and cut the first piece for Mom.
Do an activity together, such as looking through the Christmas cards.
Remind your loved one who the people are or tell a favorite story about the person who sent the card.
Be prepared to look at the cards several times during the holidays and tell the same stories. That’s okay. It’s part of the Alzheimer’s process, and someday – you’ll be glad you took the time to do this.
If you check your loved one out of assisted living for the day, be sure to check back in before dark.
As the sun sets, Alzheimer’s patients often experience Sundowner’s Syndrome. They may pace, say the same words over and over and exhibit anxiety. They feel safer in their rooms before dark, so make sure you time your meals and your activities accordingly.
If you are traveling for the holidays, it is usually not a good idea to include your Alzheimer’s loved one.
Traveling out of their comfort zone is difficult: several hours cramped in a car or a plane, strangers, noise, unfamiliar surroundings, different types of foods and smells.
It makes more sense to hire a caregiver and let your loved one stay home.
What to buy for the Alzheimer’s patient?
A stuffed animal, a baby doll (especially for the women), a nice picture for the room, a picture of family members with their childhood photos inserted next to the adult photos, a favorite piece of candy, a comfortable sweater.
This Christmas, I’m giving Mom a pretty cross, made in New Mexico and a bag of her favorite Lifesaver™ mints. Shh…don’t tell her!
I’m also giving her a hug and a kiss, knowing that next Christmas may be completely different. This year – she knows who I am, and I am grateful.
Next year – maybe not.
©2013 RJ Thesman – “The Unraveling of Reverend G” – http://amzn.to/11QATC1