Holiday caregiver tips for dealing with Alzheimer’s

“Holiday season.” These two words, in my mind and probably in your mind as well, bring up many images and memories of traditions and events; most often with family and friends. Year after year, we look forward with joy and sometimes trepidation as the celebratory time draws close. For individuals and families dealing with memory and behavior changes due to Alzheimer’s disease, finding joy might be challenging, but it can be done.

My experience with families and individuals over the years has taught me the keys to a positive holiday season are about managing expectations and planning early. The hustle and bustle that is a common theme of this time of year brings some stress for all of us; but it can be a constant companion for individuals and families dealing with dementia or cognitive impairment.

When dealing with Alzheimer's memory and behavior changes, it's all about managing expectations and planning Click To Tweet

Instead of giving up on enjoying the holiday season, I would suggest making some minor adjustments to your family traditions such as:

  • Keep your loved one as involved as possible. Consider what areas they can be involved in safely to give them a sense of purpose – open cards together, discuss gift selections, or allow simple baking tasks. Try to focus on the moment about the memories you are making rather than the outcome or perfect results.
  • Be consistent with medications and physician recommendations. Even though you are busy, you will find that maintaining the structure of medications, treatments and day programs will be better for your loved one and, ultimately, for you.
  • Choose decorations and allow yourself to make changes from past celebrations. Make sure your loved one’s living space is safe – lighted candles may be a hazard and large blinking lights can cause disorientation. You can still create a beautifully decorated home, accepting that the décor may be very different from years past.
  • Recognize the effects of overstimulation. Minimize overstimulation and your anxiety level as this can transfer to your loved one. Keep activities simple and alert your guests ahead of time about your own needs and wishes. Lessen the number of visitors; simplify the plan; and allow a few days on either side of an event to be quiet and relaxing.
  • Care for YOU. Make a list of the usual things you do during the holidays. Decide which you want to keep in your plan and what you can skip. Allow others to help you and be clear in what your need for them to do. Include time away for yourself and ways that help you regain your energy. 

For more information on Alzheimer’s diseasevisit the Nantz National Alzheimer Center or call 713.441.1150. 

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Rebecca Axline

Rebecca Axline

Supervisory Clinical Social Worker at Houston Methodist
Rebecca Axline has over 30 years of clinical social work experience working in a variety of settings. She develops programs and clinical interventions with a primary focus of helping patients and family members cope with the stress of diagnosis and treatment of neurological disorders and illnesses. In her free time, she enjoys time with family and friends; encourages her daughter as she completes nursing school; loves sports and movies; runs or walks everyday-- and spends time with her two golden retrievers! She also volunteers with her church, doing a bereavement group.
Rebecca Axline

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Rebecca Axline

Rebecca Axline has over 30 years of clinical social work experience working in a variety of settings. She develops programs and clinical interventions with a primary focus of helping patients and family members cope with the stress of diagnosis and treatment of neurological disorders and illnesses. In her free time, she enjoys time with family and friends; encourages her daughter as she completes nursing school; loves sports and movies; runs or walks everyday-- and spends time with her two golden retrievers! She also volunteers with her church, doing a bereavement group.