The holidays are a meaningful time of year for many people. Families come together and reconnect to share moments of love and laughter. It can also be a stressful time with a lot of expectations of perfection – from meals, the house, decorations, and presents.
For families with relatives living with Alzheimer’s, it can be even more stressful. It’s important to try and take the time to slow down, take a deep breath, and to perhaps adjust your expectations. With a little planning you can help reduce some of that added stress and make time with your loved ones more enjoyable.
Here are 3 useful tips to help with just that:
- Ask for help.
People living with Alzheimer’s want to feel useful and contribute to everyday life. Involve them in simple holiday tasks or invite them to spend time with you as you work on preparing for the holidays. Consider asking them for help with light cleaning, food prep or decorating the Christmas tree. In the end, it’s more about quality time spent than it is about completing the task.
- Prepare family and friends ahead of time.
Explain the basics of Alzheimer’s or dementia by saying it’s a disease that affects the brain and impairs memory. Give some warning that their loved one may not remember them. Normalize other symptoms like how their loved one may easily become agitated or even frightened.
- Check-in with your loved one.
This is something you could do beforehand and even during holiday events. Ask them what they may need in order to feel comfortable. If you notice your loved one withdrawing, simply ask how they are doing.
Remember to set realistic expectations. Everything you want to complete may not get done, and that’s okay. The holidays aren’t about perfection. Keep things in perspective. What’s most important is family connection and time spent together. You have the ability to make this holiday season meaningful for yourself and your loved ones!
Christine Holmberg, MFT