Help Your Loved One with Memory Loss Enjoy the Holidays

Stacey Houseknecht, Director of Quality of Life, at Saunders House in Wynnewood, Pa. says, “The holiday season is a truly special time of year. It heralds a spirit of giving, expressions of faith and sharing holiday joy with family and friends.

“Although a spirit of good cheer abounds, the hustle and bustle of the holiday season can also mean busy calendars, lengthy shopping lists, long lines at stores and crowded streets and parking lots. For many of us, there is seemingly ‘not enough time in the day,’ and we can often feel harried and stressed.”

A Challenging Time for Caregivers

For those already caring for loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia, the holiday season can be especially difficult. The additional activities that surround the holidays typically demand even more of the caregiver’s time and energy and frequently create greater levels of stress in their lives. In fact, the holidays can be physically and emotionally draining for caregivers and sometimes even overwhelming.

Experts Tips to Reduce Stress and Increase Joy

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to limit stress and keep the season in proper perspective. A good way to start is by thinking about the real meaning of the holidays and those aspects that you and your family value the most. Then you can make a list of what traditions you’d like to continue and what activities you can forego.

In addition, the Mayo Clinic article,Alzheimer's: Tips to Make Holidays More Enjoyable and the Alzheimer’s Association website section on “Holidays and Alzheimer's Families” offer excellent suggestions for keeping your holidays more calm and cheerful.Key tips include:

  • Be Practical – You can only do so much! Set realistic expectations for yourself and your loved one. Avoid taking on too many tasks and consider scaling down your traditions (e.g., limiting travel and reducing your number of guests for parties).
  • Prepare Your Loved One as Early as Possible – Prepare your loved one for holiday visitors well ahead of time. Provide a private “sanctuary” that your loved one can retreat to when things get too hectic.
  • Limit Your Decorations – Over decorating and using bright blinking lights can cause overstimulation. Avoid lighted candles and other safety hazards as well as decorations that could be mistaken for edible treats such as artificial fruits. Also do not rearrange your furniture as this can cause confusion.
  • Keep Things Calm – Loved ones with dementia can feel overwhelmed or irritated with the change in normal routine and increased level of noise, people and overall stimulation. Try to limit your number of guests and visitors at any one time. If your loved one is in the earlier stages of the disease, keep in mind they may also have anxiety about others noticing their impairment.
  • Involve Your Loved One to the Extent They Are Able – You can share the joy with your loved one and enjoy the season in many ways. Take a ride to see holiday decorations, sing or listen to holiday music, read cards, bake cookies or hang ornaments together.
  • Be Open and Honest with Others About Your Loved One – Let family and friends know aboutyour loved one’s condition and your concerns. Prepare them for what to expect and how best to communicate with your loved one. Let them know that their patience and understanding is important and much appreciated.
  • Give Safe, Useable Gifts – Your loved one will enjoy such gifts as photo albums of family and friends, stuffed animals or soft pillows, favorite music, videos and movies and simple games.
  • Ask for Help and Support – Frequently, friends and relatives want to help, but are not sure how. Ask them for specific assistance during the holidays (e.g. “Please take Mom to her doctor’s appointment next Friday.”).

    Also, a gift certificate for respite care can afford your loved one a change of scenery while providing you with some valuable time away from your caregiving duties. This will enable you to relax, recharge your batteries or spend time with friends.
  • When Visiting or Traveling – When visiting friends and family, take a favorite “comfort item” for your loved one and prepare the hosts for your loved one’s special needs. This should include a quiet area away from the crowd and noise. If you’re traveling distances, be sure to plan ahead for all possible eventualities.

As memory care experts at the Mayo Clinic conclude, “As a caregiver, it isn't realistic to think that you will have the time or the energy to participate in all of the holiday activities as you once did. Yet, by adjusting your expectations and modifying some traditions, you can still find meaning and joy for you and your family.” 

A Caring Second Home for Loved Ones with Memory Loss

Adds, Stacey, “If you are considering residential memory care for your loved one, we believe that those with Alzheimer’s disease or other memory impairments have unique needs that demand special care, compassion and attention. At Saunders House, we have created our Care Traditions neighborhood to enhance the quality of life for those with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. Our program offers residents the freedom and dignity they deserve with the support they need in safe and comforting surroundings. 

“Of equal importance, Saunders House takes a holistic approach to memory care, incorporating life enrichment programming to nourish the mind, body and spirit. We encourage our residents to engage with others and enjoy enriching activities. Everything we do in Care Traditions promotes positive interactions among residents, staff, volunteers, family and friends. We are totally committed to providing loved ones with purposeful, meaningful lives.”

We’d Love to Hear Your Thoughts!

If you have comments or questions about our blog, we’d love to hear from you. We encourage you to share any of your caregiving experiences with us in our comments section.

Discover Our Healthy Tradition of Care and Wellness

Located adjacent to Lankenau Medical Center, Saunders House – part of Main Line Senior Care Alliance – has a celebrated tradition of providing exceptional care and services to seniors and their families. It’s a tradition we’re proud to continue.

Today, Saunders House offers a range of services – including short-term rehabilitationtraditional nursing care, restorative carememory carerespite care and specialized care for individuals with visual impairments – all in a setting that is warm, welcoming and nurturing.

For more information on Saunders House, our Short-Term Rehabilitation program and other professional services, please call us today at (610) 658-5100 or contact us online.

Disclaimer: The articles and tip sheets on this website are offered by Saunders House/Bryn Mawr Terrace and Main Line Senior Care Alliance for general informational and educational purposes and do not constitute legal or medical advice. For legal or medical advice, please contact your attorney or physician.


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