Community Blog

Socializing with Seniors Suffering from Dementia or Alzheimer’s

By Debbie Humphrey

As a professional caregiver, I am acutely aware of the challenges involved with socializing with seniors suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. When families are together during the holidays, and a beloved family member with this dreadful condition are present, there are specific things you can mindfully do to minimize awkward situations and uncomfortable moments.

To help ease our uneasiness in these situations, our friends at the Alzheimer’s Association – Florida Gulf Coast Chapter, have developed a beneficial list of Holiday Survival Tips for Families coping with Alzheimer’s, which is definitely worth sharing this time of year:

-Avoid Holiday Stress by Planning Individuals who experience the most difficulty with the holiday season are those who have given little thought to the challenges they will encounter. Consider ahead of time what may be expected of you, both socially and emotionally. Discuss holiday celebrations with relatives and close friends in advance. Plan to maintain a regular routine while trying to provide a pleasant, meaningful and calm holiday event. It is best to celebrate early in the day or have a noon meal rather than a late dinner.

-Prepare the person with Alzheimer’s for the family gathering Prepare your loved one for the upcoming holiday events to allow both of you to enjoy the warmth of the season. Show and discuss photos of family members and friends who will be visiting. Have a “quiet” room in case things get too hectic. Play familiar music and serve favorite traditional holiday foods. Schedule naps, especially if the person usually takes naps. Schedule visits with family and friends.

-Prepare family members and friends Prepare family and friends with an honest appraisal of the person’s condition to help avoid uncomfortable or harmful situations. Familiarize family members and friends with behaviors and condition changes. Recommend practical and useful gifts. (See Tip 6) Review the best ways family and friends can communicate with a person with dementia. (See Tip 5)

-Involve everyone when selecting activities Involve everyone in holiday activities, including the person with dementia. Consider taking walks, icing cookies, telling stories, doing chores, making a memory book or family tree, or keeping a journal. To encourage conversation, place magazines, scrapbooks, or photo albums in reach; play music to prompt dancing or other kinds of exercise.  Encourage young family members to participate in simple and familiar activities with the person.

-Communicate with success

*Alzheimer’s can diminish a person’s ability to communicate.
*Be calm and supportive if the person has trouble communicating.
*Speak slowly with a relaxed tone.
*Avoid criticism. For example, when someone forgets a recent conversation, avoid saying, “Don’t you remember?”
*Address the person by name.
*Be patient, flexible, and do not argue with the person with Alzheimer’s

-Smart gift giving Encourage family and friends to give useful, practical gifts for the person such as medical ID bracelet; comfortable, easy-to-remove clothing; audio tapes of favorite music; videos; and photo albums. Advise others not to give gifts such as dangerous tools or instruments, utensils, challenging board games, complicated electronic equipment, or pets. If possible, involve the person in giving gifts. For example, someone who once enjoyed cooking may enjoy baking cookies. Or, buy the gift and allow the person to wrap it.

-Safe environment in the home Persons with dementia may experience changes in judgment. This behavior may lead to confusion, frustration, or wandering. Consider these tips to reduce the risk of injury and situations that could be confusing to someone with dementia.

*Assign a “buddy” to watch out for the person to ensure their comfort.
*Arrange ample space for walking side-by-side, for wheelchairs, and walkers. Keep walking areas clear.
*Consider seating options so the person with Alzheimer’s can best focus on conversation and be least distracted.
*Don’t serve alcohol, which may lead to inappropriate behavior or interact with medications.
*Accommodate changes in vision. Place contrasting-color rugs in front of doors or steps.  Avoid dark-colored rugs that may appear to be “holes.”
*Limit access to places where injuries occur, such as a kitchen or stairwell.
*Check temperature of water and food.
*Create even level of lighting; avoid blinking lights.
*Keep decorations simple; avoid using candies, artificial fruits/vegetables, or other edibles as decorations.
*Supervise in taking medicine.
*Keep emergency phone numbers and a list of medications handy.

-Travel wisely The following suggestions may ensure a positive traveling experience:

*Never leave the person alone.
*Use familiar modes of transportation and avoid peak travel times.
*Keep plans simple and maintain daily routines as much as possible.
*Allow extra time to avoid the stress of rushing.
*Advise service and hospitality staff that you are traveling with someone with dementia and about the person’s behaviors and special needs.
* Arrange for services, such as wheelchairs, ahead of time.
*Provide identification items such as a Medic Alert® + Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return® bracelet and clothing labels.

Families can always call the Alzheimer’s Association at 727-578-2558, or the 24-hour Helpline at 800-772-8672, to answer questions about warning signs and to assist persons with dementia, as well as caregivers. The Helpline is open Christmas day, New Year’s Day, and all year-round.

Home Helpers® is honored to have been awarded the Provider of Choice 2017 award from Home Care Pulse recently, and we proudly serve male and female seniors in Clearwater, Dunedin, Palm Harbor, Safety Harbor, Tarpon Springs, Holiday, New Port Richey, Trinity, Port Richey, Hudson and surrounding areas. Contact me today to learn more about the many services offered through Home Helpers® We are Making Life Easier℠ 727.972.2539

Happy Holidays!
Source: Alzheimer’s Association

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