The role of the responsible adult in a house full of family typically gets delegated to the host and/or a select few family members. Yet, certain situations require the collaboration of the entire holiday party. Such is the case when a family member has dementia.
It is important that all family (and close friends) that are present at the holiday gatherings be made aware of the family member’s plight. The act of informing is not to be the bearer of bad news nor to spread family gossip. Rather, by letting others know of the situation at hand there can be cooperation on how to best assist the loved one with dementia enjoy the holidays to the fullest. Minor adjustments can make a major impact when interacting with people who need extra kindness and consideration.
If possible actively include them in the planning of the family gatherings. If this is not feasible, find out what they would like to participate in and what aspects of the holidays they would like to skip this year. Maybe your elderly loved one with dementia prefers smaller family gatherings to lessen the stress. Perhaps an event that concludes a bit earlier than in years past is desirable for fear of sundowners.
Build on positive past traditions and memories; ditch traditions that may cause undue stress or other negative impacts. Also adjust as needed during the course of holiday events. If something isn’t working be prepared to modify on the spot; if something is working well, stick with it!
Focus on activities that are meaningful and enjoyable to the person with dementia. Watch the same holiday movie for the umpteenth time and play the same silly parlor games. Engage without being patronizing. Make certain they have the option to be included if wanted and the easy ability to decline if they truly don’t want to partake in any particular aspect.
This may seem entirely contradictory to the concept of “holiday” but try not to veer too far off the aging loved one’s sense of normalcy. If they regularly take naps, exercise, or have a certain diet try to help them stay in their normal routine as much as possible. Those with dementia are best served with routine and consistency, as this lessens the chance for confusion and anxiety.
Suggest strategies and tools to help interactions for those unfamiliar with dementia. Make certain your aging loved one with dementia feels comfortable with a supportive and understanding holiday ensemble. This is a team effort!
Communication adjustments can be simple, yet extremely helpful! Share and utilize the tips below for communication with dementia patients.
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