Family Gatherings and Alzheimer’s

April 4, 2012

The activity and festivities during Passover and Easter pose special challenges for families coping with Alzheimer’s disease. The hurried pace can be trying at times for just about anyone, but for someone coping with Alzheimer’s disease, the change in routine can be especially disruptive. That’s why it’s important to take steps to minimize disruptions and simplify the gatherings. A few steps can help to assure that anyone with Alzheimer’s, and those who care for and love them, can have fun and be safe.

  • Simplify. The change in routine can be disconcerting and upsetting. An Easter egg hunt, or taking up their former role in a large dinner such as the Passover Seder, can be disorienting for someone with memory loss and confusion. Click here for tips on how to reduce the risk of wandering. Rethink your family traditions, and simplify. Pick and choose those traditions that are most important to you. Simplify the decorations, and avoid large crowds and raucous noise. For safety’s sake, avoid candles and artificial fruits and vegetables, which may be mistaken for the real thing.
  • Engage the person with Alzheimer’s—but keep things at their usual pace. Someone with Alzheimer’s might enjoy simple tasks, such as decorating eggs. Or, reading a beloved scripture or story at home may be a meaningful alternative to visiting a place of worship. Do not, however, force the person with Alzheimer’s to participate if they resist. Stick to the same daily routine and schedule as much as possible.
  • If a loved one with Alzheimer’s lives in a nursing home or assisted-living facility, test the waters by bringing him or her home for a short visit beforehand. For many with Alzheimer’s, being removed from familiar surroundings can be disorienting and upsetting. Even being around family members a person doesn’t see often can make someone with dementia anxious or fearful. If a home visit seems too stressful, arrange for visits by small groups to the nursing home to minimize confusion and upset.
  • Apprise family members and relatives who are coming from out of town about the status of a parent, sibling or loved one with Alzheimer’s ahead of time. That way, everyone will be better prepared during family gatherings.
  • Delegate. Let family members and friends help with the chores, such as baking. Let others watch a loved one if you need to take time for yourself.



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