Tips on how to reduce anxiety this holiday season for you
and your loved ones with dementia
As I prep for the holiday season, I am consumed by of all the things that need to get done. Like many of you in the same situation, I have a million things going through my head. I am sure I am going to forget something – the gift for the party, or the 6 dozen cookies that were promised for the women’s group or the card for Uncle Henry letting him know what we have been up to this year. Yes, the wonderful holiday season is often filled with anxiety, just as much as it is filled with cheer.
Did you know that this sense of anxiety is how it feels for a person who has Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, every day? We are trained to become great multi-taskers in our everyday lives out of survival and we have learned how to prioritize events and activities throughout the holiday season to make it reasonable for us to attain everything we want. The person with cognitive decline can become overwhelmed by the thought of beginning one task, much less completing multiple tasks and aren’t able to separate the rush of the season versus any other time of the year. The fear of being in social situations and not being able to keep up with everyone or contribute successfully can be paralyzing. As a result, the holidays can be a very stressful time for both the person that has dementia and the people that love and care for them.
Fortunately, there are some simple ways we can avoid the chaos and high demands of the holiday season for our loved ones (and for ourselves!):
Keep it simple- less is more
- Stick to a familiar routine and familiar food as much as possible
- Wear comfortable clothes
- Listen to your loved one’s favorite music
- Limit time in social events with a lot of people – try making arrangements for smaller get-togethers
- Provide much needed quiet time or rest time away from the hustle and bustle
- Do not overwhelm loved ones with gifts, they may feel like they have to respond in kind and may feel guilty if they can’t
- It can be reassuring to just sit in silence with your loved one, holding their hand
Offer and accept help
- Provide opportunities for your loved one to get involved at their level of comfort, such as helping wrap presents, stirring the cookie dough or sharing their favorite holiday tradition
- Remind your loved one that they are not alone and that other people can help “get things ready”
- Accept help from friends and neighbors when they offer it and don’t be afraid to ask for it if you need it
Change your behaviors and expectations- not theirs
- Compromise with and comfort your loved ones
- Do not correct or scold them – try redirection or introducing a new topic
If your family celebrates the holiday with gift-giving, there are some wonderful Alzheimer’s appropriate gifts can be found on amazon.com. Click the link below for helpful options:
When the holiday season is finally over, you more than likely won’t dwell on whether or not you remembered the gift for the party or if the 6 dozen cookies for the women’s group were store-bought or if Uncle Henry got the full update. Hopefully, what you will remember are the beautiful smiles on your loved one’s face and all the new memories that were made.