Whether this is the first holiday you’ll experience with Alzheimer’s or one of many, you have to prepare for the stress. The holiday season is upon us and stress is a factor in any household. However, the stress of dealing with Alzheimer’s added to the typical holiday stress can be overwhelming. This article on caregiving stress, by the Mayo Clinic, gives some tips and ideas on how caregivers can help reduce their stress in their everyday life.
You have to start by accepting that some of the traditions and ideas of days of pre-Alzheimer’s simply are no longer reasonable. Unfortunately the disease will decide what can and can’t be done now. If you’re smart you will accept that instead of fighting it.
I see too many families thinking like normal and truth is that the Alzheimer’s brain is not accepting of the term “normal” as we know it. Understanding the disease and what it does to the mind of the person affected is the first step to decreasing you holiday stress.
Holiday traditions and Alzheimer’s
Some holiday traditions won’t have much effect on the person with Alzheimer’s. In return, some traditions may become impossible for you to involve your loved one. The biggest mistake I see happen throughout the holiday season of Thanksgiving and Christmas is deciding to ignore the Alzheimer’s and try to carry on traditions. Here are a few tips for holiday stresses and dementia.
- Keep a list of things you need to do & get. This will take some pressure off of having to remember everything. In time “lists” will become your friend & save you a lot of stress even after the holidays (if they haven’t already made a difference in your life).
- Thanksgiving dinner can be downsized. Often a person with dementia will be overwhelmed by a table that is filled with many dishes and choices. Instead, have the basics (a turkey, dressing, some potatoes, a vegetable, and gravy).
- Remember that taste buds of people with dementia may change. This means that a dish they used to love they may no longer recognize or desire. Don’t take it personally. This is part of the disease.
- Understand the person who has dementia or Alzheimer’s and plan according to their individual situation. This may mean changing from holiday festivities in the evening to the daytime when the person is at their best.
- Put the needs of yourself and your loved one first. Don’t allow yourself to be pushed into uncomfortable situations that you know will cause unnecessary tension.
- Keep to a schedule as much as possible. This includes having your specialized physical therapist come to your NY home or location that they typically work with your loved one even through the holiday season. Keep those appointments!
- Trim down the guest list & the menu. Order your thanksgiving dinner from a local restaurant to reduce your work & invite only the immediate family (or even just have dinner with you and your loved one). There is plenty of time for individual visits from friends and family if they want to spend time with you and your loved one over the holiday season.
- Get some help during the holiday season to take of some of the pressure. Hire a professional to come in for companionship care (simply being present for the person who has dementia) while you take some time to leisurely shop.
- Avoid crowds. Most people with dementia at any level will become confused and disoriented in large groups. Even if your loved one’s dementia isn’t that bad, you will be doing them a favor by keeping groups to the absolute minimum in size.
- Explain your situation to others to avoid problems and issues from the very start. You will be surprised how many people will understand and even offer some help during the holidays.
It’s extremely important to make time for yourself, as a caregiver, to enjoy the holidays. This means taking the steps early to arrange for someone you trust or even better a professional in home caregiving company, to begin making regular visits with your loved one. You may be surprised to know that most insurance, including Medicare, will cover in home healthcare with professional caregivers that are trained to work with dementia patients. Start the process early and you won’t worry so much that your loved one is doing okay with the person you have hired. Believe me, Medicare Part B covers most cases of at home caregiving services and you will feel much better knowing there is a professional who is trained to care for your loved one.
While it may be hard to go to a friend or family’s house for a social gathering without your loved one over the holidays, you have to think about your own well-being too. Being thrown into this lifestyle was no doing of your own; but you can learn how to cope as best as possible while trying to keep yourself healthy. Remember, if you stress yourself out over the holidays you may end up jeopardizing your own health. There’s enough stress in the everyday life. Don’t allow the holidays to make you hostage to stress.
Dedicated To Your Health & Well-being (and safety),