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Helping Families of Seniors with Alzheimer’s Celebrate the Holidays

Senior man with Alzheimer's disease.
It may be difficult to look forward to the holidays when a beloved family member is not himself. That’s why you’ll need to take special care this year to ensure that the season is as festive as possible.

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January 9, 2012

The holidays can be particularly stressful for families of seniors suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Look to resources such as the Alzheimer’s Association and the local Home Instead Senior Care® office for assistance.

Q. This will be the first holiday season where our 85-year-old father’s Alzheimer’s disease has progressed to the point that he doesn’t recognize many of his family members. As his primary caregiver, how can I arrange a holiday that has some of the festivities of years past without becoming even more stressed-out than I am already?

It may be difficult to look forward to the holidays when a beloved family member is not himself. That’s why you’ll need to take special care this year to ensure that the season is as festive as possible. We looked to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America for suggestions:

Communicate concerns. In advance of the holidays be candid with family and friends about your loved one’s condition and your concerns, and enlist their support. Use this season of giving as an opportunity to discuss sharing family responsibilities and to strive for family togetherness.

Set realistic expectations. Consider both what the individual with dementia is capable of and what you, as a caregiver, can handle given your demanding role. Then put celebrations into manageable proportions. This can help decrease stress and head off feelings of depression that stem from unrealistic expectations, both for you and your loved one.

Adapt family gatherings. Since crowds, noise and altering routines can aggravate confusion and other behavioral problems, revising your get-togethers may be in order. For example, instead of entertaining the whole clan, limit the number of attendees at a holiday dinner or spread out several smaller gatherings on different days.

Pare down traditions. With round-the-clock caregiving, it may not be feasible to juggle all of your religious and ethnic observances. You can still keep traditions alive; just reduce their number to avoid feeling overwhelmed and frustrated. Ask your loved one which traditions to choose, since it will be another way to involve him.

Why not enlist some extra help, as well? There’s no better time of year to seek respite than the holidays. Consider asking a friend to stay with your father so that you can make holiday preparations — or, better yet, relax and enjoy this festive time of year. If you don’t have help, call your local Home Instead Senior Care® office. Respite assistance is one of the company’s most requested services.

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