For seniors with memory care needs, it’s not uncommon for the holiday season to feel a little overwhelming. Things like changes in usual routine and environment, loud social events and an increased focus on food and drink can be especially difficult to navigate.
Family is truly at the heart of the holidays, and if a loved one with dementia enjoys the festive celebrations, it’s important to help them feel included. Many seniors deal with feelings of loneliness or isolation at this time of year, particularly if they live alone or have lost close friends and family members.
If your loved one has Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, it may be possible to adapt your plans to better suit their needs and reduce the likelihood of causing unnecessary distress. Here are 7 tips to help a senior living with dementia get the most from the holidays.
- Allow them to retain a familiar routine. Sudden changes in routine can be confusing or upsetting for seniors with dementia, so simple considerations like serving meals at their usual time and in a familiar space can be extremely helpful.
- Introduce environmental changes gradually. If you plan to put up decorations in their home or living space, it’s often a good idea to spread this out over a number of days. Decorations can be positive and bring great joy for seniors living with dementia, but it’s important to make any changes slowly to help your loved one adapt.
- Get them involved in simple, nostalgic activities. Bake holiday cookies or festive cupcakes and ask them to stir the mixture or get them involved in decorating a Christmas tree with ornaments that have been passed down through the generations. Allowing them to participate in non-daunting activities that feel familiar can provide comfort and enjoyment, while also helping them feel more included.
- Make preparations for family events. If you’re taking your loved one to a family event, give them a designated space to go to if they feel overwhelmed, and explain your loved one’s needs to guests if they’re not already aware. Simple requests like asking guests to keep the volume slightly lower, or to refrain from using crackers and party poppers could help keep your loved one happy and settled.
- Look back on good times. Seniors living with dementia often enjoy reliving old memories. This could be as simple as getting together to watch an old festive movie they love, or singing their favorite traditional Christmas songs. The holiday season is the perfect time for reminiscing on family memories, too – so why not put together a digital album of old photographs or home videos to sit down and explore together?
- Consider their needs at mealtimes. It’s common for seniors with dementia to have issues with eating. These problems can have a variety of causes, including reduced concentration abilities, discomfort, depression, side effects of medication or physical difficulties with chewing and swallowing. If you know your loved one struggles to eat, avoid overloading their plate. They may also feel more comfortable eating foods that are familiar to them, rather than traditional festive dishes.
- Ask them what they want to do. Of course, communicating with your loved one is often the best way to figure out what works for them. Alzheimer’s disease and dementia look different for everyone, and each affected individual is unique in their symptoms, likes and dislikes. If they’re able to communicate their needs with you, ask them what their perfect festive celebration would look like.
The holiday season is a busy time for many families, and when a loved one has memory care needs, thinking of ways to keep them involved without causing discomfort can be daunting. Though small adaptations like the ones above might be useful in some cases, it’s important to note that every senior is different.
Sometimes, the best option is for your loved one to spend the holidays with their memory care community in San Antonio. In this case, small gestures like making a video call at a time that suits their routine, or paying a visit to enjoy a low-key festive activity together could be of great value.
In other circumstances, seniors with dementia may simply no longer enjoy the holidays, preferring to stick with their familiar daily activities. As a family caregiver, the best thing you can do is to be mindful of your loved one’s preferences and personal needs.
Giving Thanks to Caregivers in the Festive Season
Aside from food, festivities and fun, the holiday season is all about reflection and showing gratitude for the things and people we love most. As a memory care facility in San Antonio, we understand the lengths that caregivers go to each day to enhance the lives of seniors.
Family caregivers sacrifice their careers, social lives and precious time with children and partners in order to give senior loved ones the dignified care they deserve – the same care that these loved ones likely once provided for them.
When a senior’s needs become too advanced for family caregivers to manage alone, professional caregivers in memory care, home health or assisted living step in to relieve the pressures family caregivers face.
All types of senior care are vital in enhancing the wellbeing of aging seniors. As we head into a brand-new year, we’re eternally grateful for the work caregivers do at Pipestone Place Assisted Living to preserve the dignity, health and happiness of the senior residents we know and love.