When a loved one is in memory care, many caregivers find it difficult to include them in the joy of the season. However, even though it takes a bit more time and careful planning, making your loved ones in memory care a part of your holidays is one of the best gifts you can give them.
“No matter what stage of memory loss your loved one is in, being surrounded by people who love them and who are a part of their memories is so beneficial,” says Eric Kessler, Executive Director of Bridges® by EPOCH at Westwood, a memory care assisted living community in Westwood, MA. “Your loved one is still the same person and is capable of experiencing joy. Since the holiday season revolves around beloved traditions, there are many opportunities to make connections and perhaps spark memories and conversation.”
Eric also recommends including your loved one in the actual holiday season as well as the holiday itself. “The build-up to the main event can be just as fun as the holiday itself. By making your loved one with dementia a part of your festive preparations, you can make the whole season – not just the day – fun and enjoyable.”
Things to Consider
Individuals with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and memory issues have unique challenges that you’ll need to consider before any sort of celebration. While time together is nice, what’s most important is that it’s meaningful time for both you and your loved one. Here are three questions to ask before planning a get-together:
- Can my loved one travel to celebrate with everyone?
Travel is almost always involved to and from holiday celebrations, whether across town or across the country. You may have an idea of a “traditional” celebration at someone’s home, complete with a groaning dinner table and chestnuts roasting on an open fire. However, people with dementia can become agitated, anxious and fearful if taken to a new place or have their routine disturbed, meaning travel could be difficult, if not downright impossible.
- What if my loved one can’t recognize or doesn’t know it’s the holiday season?
If your loved one is in the mid- to late-stages of dementia, he or she may not even realize that it’s the holiday season. That doesn’t mean that they can’t benefit and enjoy time spent with family, but it may mean that it’s not wise to take them to a big celebration. Instead, have family visit the memory care community to bring the season to them. You can play favorite carols, look through photo albums or watch a beloved holiday classic.
- What activities are going on at the memory care community?
Memory care communities have regular celebrations throughout the season to make things merry and bright – and families are always welcome. Check out what scheduled events are available, and plan to attend a few of them.
Once you’ve determined how much holiday cheer your loved one can handle, you can start planning. Here are just a few ways you can make a jolly holiday season for a senior with dementia:
Decorate their space.
Kick off the season by decking the halls in your loved one’s memory care apartment. It’s festive, fun and something the entire family can do. Choose some fun activities that everyone can participate in, like creating popcorn garlands, making construction paper chains or painting wooden ornaments. If possible, bring some ornaments that have meaning to your loved one. You may spark a memory and the chance to reminisce.
Celebrate on a regular basis.
There’s a reason it’s called the holiday season. Since the celebrating can last all month long (and beyond), that means there are multiple opportunities to celebrate. Why not include your loved one with dementia in some of those opportunities? Whether it’s a game night, a small dinner or a cookie-baking party, lots of little things can add up to big fun over the holiday.
Bring technology into play.
Between video chatting, streaming video or fun apps designed to help stimulate your loved one’s brain, technology can be used to entertain, connect, reminisce or even make memories. You can create a video or slideshow of Christmases past to play for your loved one, along with messages from family members who can’t be there this holiday.
Maintain cherished traditions.
Every family has a tradition or two that “make” the season every year. Although not all of these are able to be translated for individuals in memory care, there are plenty you might be able to adapt or even continue as is. For example, if you play a certain holiday album every time you decorate the tree, play it as you deck out Grandma’s room. Always have a cookie-baking party, but your aunt can’t necessarily participate in the baking? Bring unfrosted cookies and decorate them together. Remembering the little things will help make memories for you and your loved one and build connections to memories of holidays past.
Join in memory care community events.
Find out what activities are going on at your loved one’s community and organize a family gathering to join in the festivities. You’ll enjoy attending a party you don’t have to throw, and your loved one will be able to have fun in a comfortable, familiar place.
Make a New Year’s resolution.
We spend time together during the holidays, but once the new year hits, our lives tend to get away from us. This year, consider how you can provide your loved one with meaningful moments in this upcoming year. Remember, you don’t have to make big gestures – a handwritten letter or visiting for 15 minutes can be incredibly beneficial.
If you would like more information about celebrating the holidays with your loved one in memory care, contact us at 781.251.6630.
Bridges® by EPOCH at Westwood provides assisted living memory care that is comfortable, positive, safe and engaging. Exclusively dedicated to caring for those with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia or memory impairment, we’ve created a wellness-focused lifestyle that promotes dignity and individual preferences. Our memory care professionals receive specialized and ongoing training designed to help residents maximize their independence in a secure, calm environment – making a truly positive impact on the lives of our residents each and every day.
Our care and services are designed to recognize and adapt to the individual challenges and personalities of our residents, while making sure they are comfortable and safe. We believe in a full-service approach to care and provide a high level of personalized attention for every resident through all stages of memory loss.
Bridges® by EPOCH at Westwood features a distinct design, providing residents with everything they need to enjoy comfort, familiarity and security. Our community is built specifically to benefit those with Alzheimer’s disease and memory loss … so we use soft colors, directional cues, aromatherapy and interactive life stations to create a soothing, safe environment where residents feel at ease.
Call us today at 781.251.6630 to learn more about Bridges® by EPOCH at Westwood or to schedule a personal tour.