From the smell of gingerbread and cinnamon in the air to the colors and twinkling lights that illuminate the evenings, the holiday season is a magical time of year. However, it is usually when many families, friends, and loved ones come together and spend more quality time; it can also be a source of added stress.
In addition to your regular responsibilities, you may be rushing to finish your holiday shopping, getting your decorating done, or even preparing to host family members or guests from out of town. This is a lot for anyone to tackle, but if you are the primary caregiver for someone living with dementia and memory loss, this time of year can present a different set of challenges.
The key is to know the best ways to celebrate the holidays with your loved one so that you can make the season magical and meaningful for the whole family. To help you do this, our team at Vivage is sharing a few tips and ideas.
Keep it Simple
Remember what the holidays are truly about: spending time with family, friends, and those you love. It can be easy and tempting to go overboard and get swept up in all the magic that the holiday season brings. However, when you are celebrating the holidays with a person living with dementia and experiencing memory loss, keeping the décor simple is a better option.
While attending or hosting elaborate parties with flashing lights and endless decorations may be exciting for you, all this extra sensory stimulation can be overwhelming and cause unnecessary stress. But remember, you do not need all of this in order to have a magical holiday season.
If you host a holiday party, prepare the meal in a simple and approachable way. For example, include your loved one’s favorite foods so they feel familiar and your loved one feels comfortable during the meal.
Additionally, limit how many gatherings you choose to attend. You do not have to go to every holiday party you and your loved one are invited to. Instead, select the family gatherings and holiday parties that are the most meaningful. By only attending a few, you and your loved one will have a more meaningful holiday season without the added pressure and stress the constant “go, go, go” tendencies this time of year can bring.
Include Your Loved One in the Festivities
The holidays are about being together, and keeping your loved one physically and mentally stimulated is a key part of promoting brain health. This is why one of the simplest and best ways to celebrate the holidays with a loved one experiencing memory loss is to make sure they feel included in activities and celebrations.
For example, honor your family’s holiday traditions by hanging ornaments on the Christmas tree while a holiday soundtrack plays in the background, decorating cookies together, watching your loved one’s favorite holiday movie, and reminiscing about past holiday memories.
Doing these types of activities not only helps to keep your loved one engaged and living in the moment, but it also helps to keep their memories fresh in their mind.
Let Other Family Members Know What to Expect
A lot can change in a year, and it’s possible some of your visiting family members, and friends have not seen your loved one since the last holiday season. Health conditions that cause memory loss, such as dementia, are progressive conditions.
Let your other family members and friends know what to expect ahead of time and share how your loved one may have changed since the last time they saw them. Explain the basics of memory loss and what your loved one is going through, reminding them to treat your loved one with the dignity, respect, and patience they deserve.
Even though the holiday season may look a little different this year, this does not mean you cannot enjoy all of your family’s favorite traditions and have a magical season. Just make sure to consider your loved one’s feelings and make any adjustments when they feel overwhelmed.