By Karen Stokes
As the holiday season approaches, families often look forward to spending quality time with their loved ones. But holidays can be a stressful time for families caring for someone living with Alzheimer’s.
Maintaining or adapting family rituals and traditions helps all family members feel a sense of belonging and family identity.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, currently more than 6 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia, and 11 million are serving as their caregivers.
Diane Milner, Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at the Alzheimer’s Association offered tips for caring for a family member with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers during the holidays.
“There’s so many things that families can do. Personally from having been a caregiver, surround the caregiver, find out what the caregiver needs, the expression of love is time. If you can, give the caregiver who is caring for your loved one time, give them a break, and offer to spend time with the loved one that they are caring for,” Milner said.
“Make things easy, effortless and enjoyable. If you can find ways to do that it will make things simpler for everyone,” said Milner.
A gift ideal Milner suggested for your family member with Alzheimer’s is a photo album but she adds to make sure you put names in large print by each photo so they can recall.
Give your loved one something to look forward to. Get them involved in getting ready for the holiday. That gives them a sense of belonging.
If you’re planning on visiting your loved one residing at a Memory Care facility this holiday season, there are ways to make the visit both memorable and joyful. Consider the best time of day for your loved one. People with memory loss often have better times of the day that work for them. Arrange your visit during these times. You can bring personal items that evoke memories and can be comforting, a family photo album or a favorite piece of music but most of all keep it simple not to overstimulate your loved one.
“There’s no reason to have stress just because it’s the holidays. The holidays are what we make them, they don’t have to be what’s on the hallmark movie, there doesn’t need to be big decorations,” Milner said.
For more information go to Alz.org, there’s a list of caregiver resources and educational information. You can enroll in classes that are specific to Wisconsin, some are in person, some are virtual or call the helpline at 1-800-272-3900.