For all of the joy that holidays can bring, they can be one of the most stressful times for the person with early onset Alzheimer’s and the care partner. Holidays bring together large groups of people, presents, lights, Christmas caroling, yet all of these wonderful traditions can be over-stimulating for people with the disease and their care partners.
Holidays will be one of those times where you have to educate those around you that modifications may need to be made to the traditions. It is critical to do what is best for the person with early onset Alzheimer’s disease.
Modifications can be made to the traditions that can allow for a less-stressful holiday season for all involved.
- As the care partner, you know those things that your loved one will be comfortable with and those things that cause fear and stress. Communicate this to your family and friends, including younger children.
- Large groups of people can over-stimulate the person with early onset Alzheimer’s, so consider having several smaller gatherings. This can extend the celebration and also offer more interaction for the person with the disease. Keep in mind that while socialization may need to be modified based upon where the person is in the disease process; being able to interact with people is critically important.
- Traveling can be especially difficult. There are large crowds during the holiday season, and this can exacerbate the stress and anxiety for your loved one. Please keep in mind that as the disease progresses, being in their home around familiar surroundings is paramount to their sense of security. Be realistic that traveling to holiday gatherings may no longer be possible.
- Make sure to educate your family and friends on the proper communication techniques for your loved one. This will enhance the experience for all involved.
- Consider adjusting meal times to best meet the needs of the person with the disease.
- If your loved one is in a long-term care facility, coordinate visits so that socialization opportunities can be spread out. Find out if family members and friends can be part of the holiday festivities at the facility. Also, some facilities have private dining/meeting rooms where your family could gather for a private celebration.
- Holiday decorations can be one of the most exciting elements of the holiday season; however it can also cause increased confusion, anxiety, and safety issues for the person with the disease. Limit the amount of decorations. Consider using a plastic tree, use electric candles to avoid fire hazards, and be aware of where electrical cords are placed, as they can be a fall hazard.
- Create activities around some of your loved one’s favorite memories or traditions. Look through photo albums, decorate holiday cookies, listen to holiday music, and give handmade gifts.
- Are the care partner, surround yourself with support. Ask friends and family members to help you—whether it’s going to the grocery store for you or coming to sit with your loved one so you can have a break—you need to take care of yourself. This could also be a good opportunity to join a support group so that you can share your feelings and experiences with others that understand what you are going through.