No doubt, caregiving for someone with dementia presents its own set of unique challenges during the holidays. Disruptions to routine, flashy decorations, crowds and excess noise can be very stressful for your memory impaired loved one. Taking steps to mitigate these stressors can make the holidays go much more smoothly for both of you.
First, try to curtail excess stimulation. Do your holiday decorations consist of multi-colored blinking lights? Decorative wax fruits or burning candles? Large yard displays of Santa and his reindeer? Too many bold decorations can be disorienting for your loved one. And some may even be dangerous, such as fake fruits that they mistake to be real. Whether or not you’ve already decorated, consider simplifying the decorations to alleviate potential sources of stress for your loved one.
When attending or hosting a family gathering, keep in mind that the influx of guests and the noise of competing conversations and music can be overwhelming. That doesn’t mean your loved one shouldn’t be included in these celebrations. Instead, make sure there’s someplace for your loved one to take a break from the commotion if need be. Set aside a quiet room for this purpose.
If you’re planning to travel with your loved one, keep a bag of essentials with you at all times – labeled medications, a comfortable change of clothes, a list of emergency contacts, and water and snacks. For the car or plane ride, bring along items that will keep them engaged and comfortable. This might include a pillow, books, magazines, puzzles or photo albums.
If you plan to fly, it’s helpful to inform airport employees that your loved one has dementia so they can assist you in making any necessary accommodations. If the airport has escort services, take advantage. This will help you navigate the busy airport, including security, as quickly and smoothly as possible. In case you experience delays of any kind, be sure to arrive at the airport early.
Finally, do your best to stick to your loved one’s regular routine. The holiday hubbub makes this more difficult, but adhering to normal sleep, meal and activity times can help give your loved one a sense of security and comfort during a busy, chaotic time.
Following these tips should help reduce stress for your loved one so you and your family can enjoy a more peaceful and pleasant holiday season.