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Holidays with Your Loved One with Memory Loss

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How to Enjoy the Holidays with Your Loved One with Memory Loss

“We all look forward to the holiday season, a time for friends, family, special gatherings, good food and good cheer,” says Steve Carney, Wellness Coordinator/Administrator at Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr located in Bryn Mawr, PA.

“But for families with a loved one with memory loss, the holidays can also bring uncertainty and questions. ‘How will Mom or Dad react to the excitement?’  ‘Should we do things differently this year?’ ‘What traditions can we keep and what should we change?’”

9 Expert Tips to Keep the Holidays Merry and Bright

The good news is there are specific steps you can take now to prepare for the holidays in ways that will benefit your loved one with memory loss while still maintaining the joy of the season for everyone.

To start, memory loss authorities suggest focusing on the true spirit of the holidays and the things that have the greatest meaning for your family. From there, they say, you can create a list of the holiday activities you’d like to keep as well as those you can eliminate if needed.

Both the Alzheimer’s Association®  article, “Holidays and Alzheimer's Families” and the Mayo Clinic article, “Alzheimer's: Tips to make holidays more enjoyable” provide useful ideas for keeping the holidays happy for you and your loved one with memory loss. For example:

  1. Be Realistic – Set realistic expectations for yourself and your loved one. Avoid taking on too many tasks and consider scaling down your holiday traditions. Try to limit travel and reduce your number of guests for parties.
  2. Prepare Your Loved One Early – Be sure to prepare your loved one with memory loss for the holidays well ahead of time. Provide a private “sanctuary” that they can retreat to when things get too hectic. Also, avoid giving them alcohol as it can cause depression.
  3. Keep It Calm – Loved ones with memory loss can feel overwhelmed or irritated with changes in their routine and increased levels of noise, people and overall stimulation. Therefore, try to limit your number of guests and visitors at any one time. If your loved one is in the earlier stages of memory loss, keep in mind they may also have anxiety about others noticing their impairment.
  4. Be Open and Honest with Others About Your Loved One – Let family and friends know about your loved one’s memory loss and your concerns. Prepare them for what to expect and how to best communicate with your loved one. Let them know that their patience and understanding is important and much appreciated.
  5. Involve Your Loved One to The Extent They are Able – You can still share the joy of the holidays with your loved one with memory loss in many ways. Take a ride to see holiday lights, sing or listen to festive music, read cards, bake cookies or hang ornaments together.
  6. Limit Decorations – Over-decorating and using bright, blinking lights can cause overstimulation for those with memory loss. Avoid lit candles and other safety hazards, as well as decorations that could be mistaken for edible treats — such as artificial fruits. Also, do not rearrange your furniture as this causes confusion.
  7. Give Safe, Useable Gifts – Your loved one will enjoy such gifts as photo albums of family and friends, stuffed animals or soft pillows, favorite music, videos and movies and simple games.
  8. When Visiting or Traveling – When visiting friends and family during the holidays, take a favorite “comfort item” for your loved one with memory loss and prepare the hosts for your loved one’s special needs. This should include a quiet area away from the crowd and noise. If you’re traveling distances, be sure to plan ahead for all possible eventualities.
  9. Ask for Help and Support – Frequently, friends and relatives want to help, but are not sure how. Ask them for specific assistance during the holidays, e.g. “Please take dad to his dentist appointment next Tuesday.”

Also, a gift certificate for respite care can provide loved ones with memory loss with a change of scenery while providing family caregivers with valuable time away from their caregiving duties. This enables caregivers to recharge their batteries and spend time with friends.

Memory loss authorities at the Mayo Clinic offer this final piece of wisdom for family caregivers: “As a caregiver, it isn't realistic to think that you will have the time or the energy to participate in all of the holiday activities as you once did. Yet, by adjusting your expectations and modifying some traditions, you can still find meaning and joy for you and your family.”

We Would Love to Hear from You!

If you have comments or questions about our blog on memory loss and the holidays, we’d love to hear from you. We also encourage you to share any of your caregiving experiences in our comments section.

In addition, we invite you to read our timely articles on current caregiver and memory loss topics posted on our website.

Engaging Days. Meaningful Moments.

Loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease or other memory impairments require specialized care and support. They also deserve a lifestyle rich in dignity and fulfillment. Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr provides residents with Engaging Days and Meaningful Moments that emphasize individual abilities, encourage socialization and promote the highest level of independence possible. We offer a complete continuum of leading-edge programs, services and amenities that address the total physical, emotional and social needs of residents in a caring setting that offers individual suites with large private baths and the comfort of home. Our memory care community touches hearts and changes lives.

Helping Families Be “Family” Again

Memory loss caused by Alzheimer’s disease, dementia or another form of memory impairment doesn’t only affect the person who has it – it affects the entire family.

If you have a loved one with early- to mid-stage memory loss, you know how challenging it can be to provide the care that’s needed while trying to maintain balance in your life. As care needs increase, you may not be able to meet them physically or emotionally. It’s often difficult to be available to care for your loved one’s health and well-being around the clock.

If and when the time comes to seek additional help, place your trust in Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr. We lift the stresses and worries of being a caregiver from your shoulders, enabling you and your family to enjoy time with your loved one again.

For more information, please call Sharon at 484.380.5400 or contact us online.

Disclaimer: The articles and tip sheets on this website are offered by Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr and Main Line Senior Care Alliance for general informational and educational purposes and do not constitute legal or medical advice. For legal or medical advice, please contact your attorney or physician.