For families living with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, the holidays can sometimes be less than happy and instead filled with anxiety and stress. When adult children travel to visit older parents there are often changes that have been occurring over the time apart. Things like short term memory may be the first symptoms to appear however, judgment, speech, balance and even personality changes may also increase in between visits. If some family members live nearby and interact with mom and dad regularly the changes may not seem so significant as for family who isn’t around quite as often. The holidays also bring increased anxiety with larger crowds to serve at meal times, more planning and activities spent together, loud conversations and a desire to maintain harmony at any cost.
For a mom with Alzheimer’s who has always taken on meal planning and preparation, the holidays may simply prove to be too overwhelming. As the disease steals the ability to perform daily tasks, doing the grocery shopping, following a recipe or even setting the table may be too complicated with too many steps to remember and follow. For dads who traditionally host the viewing of the holiday football game, crowds of people all talking at once may cause anxiety and even anger as the ability to keep track of conversations decreases.
There are a number of things families can do if they are aware of changes before descending on mom and dad for the holidays. Sharing with friends who might stop by can also help eliminate stress and worry about whether a visit might go well.
Tips To Enhance Communication With Person Who Has Dementia:
Tips for success at meal time:
Caregiving is a 24/7 job
The Alzheimer’s Association describes caregiving as the 36 hour day. The responsibility is non-stop. Caregivers are often managing the household budget, cleaning, cooking, doing laundry, taking care of the children if the person has Younger Onset Alzheimer’s, personal care and hygiene for the person with dementia as well as maintaining their sense of comfort, safety and security, and even sometimes, the caregiver is juggling care with a full time job. It is exhausting and without a break and/or support, the caregiver will feel the effects physically as well as emotionally. When visitors come from out of town there are many ways they can assist the caregiver.
Tips for helping caregivers:
If concerns arise after a visit with family over the holidays, start by talking with siblings. If it’s possible, try and get consensus about what everyone experienced to see if concerns are shared. If there are conflicting opinions, the Alzheimer’s Association can help sort things out. Additionally scheduling a visit with mom or dad’s family doctor to talk together about concerns might be helpful. There might be medication interactions or vitamin B deficiencies that are contributing to memory issues without signs of dementia so ruling out what might be causing concerns is the best first step. Suggesting a visit to the doctor’s office could actually put mom or dad’s own mind at ease as there are bound to be concerns they haven’t shared with family and friends.
While the holidays should be a time of celebration and being together with friends and family, a little planning ahead may help relieve stress and anxiety for everyone, especially for the person who is seeing things slowly change as the disease progresses. For more tips and support contact the Alzheimer’s Association of Colorado at 800.272.3900 or go online to alz.org/co