Christmas is a wonderful time of year. Not only is it time to reconnect with loved ones, but the season is full of sights, sounds, and smells that trigger memories and encourage friendly conversation.
Many people who care for a loved one with dementia are very busy with their own personal lives, but there are subtle ways to prepare your loved one for the holiday season and even make some new traditions along the way.
Contact a local church or charity to see if they are holding a carol service. If so, you and your loved one could attend together. If that’s not possible, see if some of the carolers might be able to bring the service to you. You could also host a carolling night in your home, with family and friends. This will make your loved one feel at ease and welcomed while they listen and sing along to holiday songs, new and old.
Ask About Past Traditions
Ask your loved one or their family member what traditions they typically partake in (individually or as a family). Can you help them experience this tradition again this year? Keep in mind that traditions can bring back many memories – good and bad. They can carry a great deal of emotion and can trigger thoughts from the past as well as feelings of overwhelm and frustration.
As always, patience is very important when dealing with a loved one with dementia. Always remain open to how your loved one may react to a situation or experience. Some traditions may bring back difficult memories – like those involving a loved one who has since passed away.
Put Up Christmas Decorations
One great tradition is involving your loved one with holiday decorating. Putting up decorations is a big part of Christmas for many people and is a vital part of Christmas preparations. Invite your loved one to join you or your family while you decorate your Christmas tree and home. Let your loved one chose which decorations are used and where. If they aren’t physically able to decorate, they can still have a part in deciding what goes where. This is a great tradition to include the whole family in!
Prepare a Meal Together
Although your loved one might not be able to cook a turkey and trimmings, they can still help to prepare a holiday meal. Making a jellied salad, washing dishes or stirring the gravy are tasks that your loved one may be able to manage. If not, come up with jobs that they can complete without difficulty, such as setting the table and folding napkins. Being a part of the meal preparation will help your loved one feel involved with the traditions and activities going on in the household during the holiday season.
Create a Special Moment
A family get-together wouldn’t be complete without some activities that everyone can enjoy! Bring out the old photo albums or show some old family videos for a trip down memory lane. Just be mindful of your loved one’s feelings and emotions and make sure they’re in the mood to participate.
Prepare for Visitors
If you have guests visiting over the holidays, it’s best to warn them about your loved one’s condition. That way, no one will be embarrassed or unnecessarily stressed, especially your loved one. In turn, it’s also a good idea to prepare our loved one for guests. Be sure to emphasize that if they are feeling overwhelmed or tired, they’re more than welcome to rest or remove themselves from the situation. If everyone is on the same page, it’s much more likely that things will go smoothly and your loved one will feel much more at ease.
Approach the holiday season with positivity by making more moments that really matter. Your loved one is battling a progressive disease. Each day is a gift worth cherishing. Each day is also likely harder than the last. Enjoy where your loved one is right now and help them to enjoy the season as best they can. It’s okay to spend time enjoying the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, but it’s also okay to forego the busyness and enjoy each day for what it is. Sometimes a cup of tea and a good snuggle on the couch is the best tradition of all.
Although celebrating new traditions with a loved one who has dementia can be challenging, the greatest gift of all is spending quality time together. Be forgiving, both of yourself and your loved one. No one is perfect, and mistakes are going to happen. Things may be done or said that cause stress, but an ability to move past these moments and support your loved one will result in a happier holiday for all.You’re not alone. Contact us today to learn more about the caregiving and in-home services we can offer to support you and your loved one.