The constraints of the COVID pandemic impacted last year’s holiday season, leaving many families isolated from one another. Thankfully, this year families have the ability to embrace the opportunity to safely gather together once more. While decking the halls and preparing for visits with family, it is vital to make adjustments to holiday activities for seniors with dementia so that they can enjoy the season to the fullest as well.
Smaller is better.
Scheduling visits and inviting fewer people at a time instead of one overwhelming gathering with the entire family will likely be easier for the individual to handle. Overstimulation, an excessive amount of noise, and breaking from routine may cause frustration and anxiety.
Timing is important.
Pay attention to the person’s emotions through the course of a typical day. Is the senior more alert, engaged, and content in the early mornings or later in the evening? To the degree you can, plan gatherings around that time of day – even if it means breaking a family tradition. A holiday breakfast might be more pleasant for the older adult than an evening dinner party, for example.
Personal space is vital.
Find a calm area away from the busyness of friends and family, and help the senior retreat to that space as needed. Watch out for early warning signs that the individual is feeling stressed, and have a few relaxing activities at the ready, like soft music to listen to, a photograph album for reminiscing, or even a nap.
Activities should be pre-planned.
Prior to the gathering, put together a list of activities or topics the senior especially enjoys and responds to, and think up activities that incorporate those ideas. A senior who loves music (as many with dementia do) may enjoy listening to a grandchild play traditional holiday songs on the piano while everyone sings along. For somebody who has regularly loved baking, encourage her or him to join in rolling out pie crust or decorating cookies.
Bear in mind the older adult’s patience for holiday visiting. There’s nothing wrong with leaving a gathering early if it’s in the senior’s best interest.
Likewise, keep your own needs in mind. Taking care of a family member with dementia is not easy, and adding in the additional aspects associated with the holiday season can bring extra stress to family caregivers as well.
Abby Senior Care, a provider of home care in Denver and the surrounding communities, offers respite care services that enable family caregivers to take some time for themselves. We’re here anytime you need a break, including at family gatherings such as holiday parties. Let one of our experienced dementia care staff serve as a companion for a loved one with Alzheimer’s, making sure all of his or her needs are met during the event and letting you take it easy and fully enjoy family time.