An Alzheimer’s Holiday

Once you become an Alzheimer’s caregiver, vast life changes and sacrifices need to be made. Your holiday plans may be disrupted because simple family rituals have taken your Alzheimer’s patient out of his or her daily routine.

Like everybody else, the caregiver has extra errands to run in what feels like a shorter period of time—typical holiday madness.

Rather than dwell on the downside of things there are certain steps you can take so that you and your loved one can enjoy the holidays.

First: Try to hold the family celebration in a familiar environment. Taking patients to another family member’s dwelling could prove too confusing for them. This could devastate everyone’s holiday. I suggest celebrating quietly in the comfort of your beloved patient’s own home.

Make sure to tone down the decorations. Blinking lights and large holiday displays will overwhelm any tranquility your loved one may achieve.

Once guests have arrived, refrain from having everyone visiting with the patient all at once. Talk with the family ahead of time. Keep the traffic to a minimum. Trying to recognize too many faces at once or the sounds of multiple voices all talking at the same time will become extremely upsetting. If possible, limit gatherings to the daytime hours. Visiting at night when his or her mental confusion is much more pronounced makes absolutely no sense.

Keep patients’ food choices to a minimum. There’s enough turbulence going on already. The fewer decisions he or she has to make, the better.

A few Christmases ago I thought my father would enjoy helping wrap presents. This proved to be a very painful and time-consuming mistake. Frustration and anxiety overwhelmed him as he was unable to remember whose gift he had just wrapped only to have him rip the packages back open, throwing him into a world of confusion.

Let them try to help with whatever task you believe they can still handle. You need to be calm and follow your instincts.

Holidays bring extra stress for everyone, but don’t wear yourself down too thin. If you need assistance with the extra holiday chores, don’t be afraid to ask for help from a family member or friend.

The main thing is try to relax and enjoy the holidays. Hopefully everything will remain peaceful. You just have to do the best that you can.