There’s no doubt about it—the holiday season is the busiest of the year and can throw our normal routines into chaos. For seniors who deal with Alzheimer’s, this change of routine can be quite stressful. With all the traditions of family, visits from relatives, and endless activities, It can be exhausting for old and young alike! Here are a few tips to help seniors with Alzheimer’s find the holidays more enjoyable:
1. Minimize Your Stress
Seniors who live with Alzheimer’s disease are often far more aware and sensitive to the feelings and moods of others. They are likely to feed off your stress and anxiety and feel the same thing. This often leads to behavior that is difficult to deal with and tough to bounce back from, ultimately just adding to your overall stress.
While you can’t get rid of all stress factors in your life, just stay focused on making your schedule through the holidays manageable and don’t take on too many obligations. Consider hiring help to come in to help care for the senior in your life, or ask other family members to help shoulder the load. Above all, find your voice and say no to things that are not in the best interest of all parties involved.
If you start feeling overwhelmed by holiday stress, step away for a couple of minutes and just do some deep breathing. This may even mean going to the bathroom where you can be alone!
2. Consider Modifying Some Family Traditions
Trying to do everything the way it’s always been done might not be the best plan when caring for a senior with Alzheimer’s. Consider the traditions of your family during the holidays and think about what you can modify or simplify in order to carry less stress and responsibility. The main thing is to find things that the senior in your life could still enjoy and feel connected to, without putting tons of pressure on you. Think about what really matters and trim everything else back!
Don’t be afraid to ask your senior adult about the traditions they love and value. They usually love to talk about these things and it often provides great comfort and joy to them. It also allows them to feel they matter in holiday decisions and traditions, such as being involved with decorating the tree or which baked goodies to have. Everyone loves to feel close and connected during the holidays and seniors with Alzheimer’s are no different!
3. Involve Your Senior Adult in the Holiday Preparations
Finding ways to involve your senior adult in the various preparations for the holiday celebrations is a great way for them to feel connected and have a sense of belonging. Including them will help them feel reminded that they matter and are not forgotten during this special time. It also allows them to get a sense of what’s going on in the days ahead. They may only be able to do small tasks, but if you focus on specific activities, they will surely enjoy spending time with you. Tell family stories and bond as much as possible during these moments! Most seniors living with Alzheimer’s just want to feel heard and understood. Doing these things will help them remember their voice is not lost.
Here are a few great activities to do together:
• Rolling dough and baking Christmas cookies
• Peeling carrots and potatoes
• Dusting or wiping down the dining room table
• Polishing silver
• Gift wrapping
• Simple decorating tasks
The main thing is to pay attention to what brings them joy. Even if they don’t do the neatest job, if they are finding pleasure in helping with these tasks, let them do it. You can supervise and even touch up things that need it later.
4. Simply Your Decorating
Often, seniors find the decorations, trees, lights and other sparkling objects all around to be over-stimulating. Consider how you can reduce the clutter of over-decorating and make sure the overall appearance of the home doesn’t change too much, as this can be stressful for older adults. The main focus should be what reminds them of happy memories.
Finally, remember that the goal above all is to reduce the stress on you as well as the senior in your life. The happiness they will have in the moment will stay with them, even if they don’t remember the activities later.
We hope you have a safe and happy holiday season. If you need any help caring for a loved one, please call us. For more information on Alzheimer’s Care, click here.