Christmas day is the perfect occasion to spend more time with our loved ones. But for those suffering with memory problems, Christmas day presents many challenges. If you’d like to spend this Christmas safely and reduce* the amount of potential risks for you and your loved-ones, make sure to follow the 10 tips we provided here. By sticking to these tips, we’re sure your Christmas will pass without any problems. And, remember, memory loss does not define you, it is just one part of your life.
1. Don’t Change The Routine Too Much
People with memory loss and Alzheimer’s usually like to stick to their routine to avoid confusion. Even though it is Christmas, make sure to not go astray with your routine with your loved-one. Whatever you’ve had planned for the day, do it while your loved one is resting or asleep. Also, don’t make too many changes in your living space. Holly Hart, L.V.N who is the director of residential health services at Claremont Manor in California explains that familiarity serves as a touchstone for people with dementia and Alzheimer’s. Changing the person’s environment too much can make it hard for people with memory problems to feel safe in their environment. Include a minimal amount of Christmas decorations and make sure that they are not taking up too much space. Since you probably will have family visiting for this Christmas, your loved-one may feel a bit disoriented due to unfamiliar faces coming to their home. Make sure to not leave their side while the guests are there to reduce* your loved one’s stress levels.
2. Choose your Ornaments Wisely
Christmas ornaments are a great way to bring more light and color to gloomy winter days, but they can be dangerous and confusing to people with Alzheimer’s. Those with advanced Alzheimer’s may confuse Christmas décor with food while those in the early stages of the disease find that too much Christmas decoration is irritating. Christmas tree ornaments that resemble food in any ways presents a choking hazard for people with advanced Alzheimer’s. Mistletoes resemble berries so make sure to keep them out of reach from your loved-one. It’s best to go with simple and shiny Christmas decoration such as balls, bells, candles, simple wreaths, and Christmas lights. However, don’t overdo it with the Christmas lights and too many shiny objects. Alzheimer’s Society states that 22% of people with memory problems due to dementia or Alzheimer’s said that they found Christmas lights irritating and confusing. Use dim lights or no lights and keep your decoration in one color only, preferably a color in the colder tone such as blue and green as reds and purples tend to be too stimulating to the central nervous system, especially for people with memory problems.
3. Keep Things Quiet
When people gather around for Christmas, you’ll usually see exclamations of joy and happiness for spending the day with relatives. But for a person with Alzheimer’s, too much noise can be stressful and even frightening. Make sure to tell your guests to keep their tone down when coming for a visit and don’t play your music too loudly. Although people with Alzheimer’s find that the noise and fuss during Christmas is too much to bear, that does not mean that you should exclude your loved one from family gatherings. After all, everyone benefits from human contact and things are in no way different for people with memory problems. Make sure that the people coming over are those with plenty of empathy and understanding and that know how to provide the emotional support a person with Alzheimer’s needs. In this way, both you and your loved one will enjoy a peaceful Christmas gathering.
4. Prevent Wandering
In case your loved one panics from all the fuss happening during Christmas, you may want to make sure that your home is safe in case they decide to do something out of the ordinary to escape the fuss. Research shows that 6 in 10 persons with Alzheimer’s wander and you don’t want that happening on Christmas Day. After all, chances are that you’ll be busy preparing Christmas dinner and entertaining your guests so your focus may turn here and there from your loved one. To prevent your loved one from wandering, lock any alternative doors you have in your home and keep all areas well-lit. Safety-proof your windows and if possible, lock them as well from the outside. People with Alzheimer’s tend to wander when they have trouble locating familiar places such as the bathroom or their bedroom. That is why you should not make too many changes in your living space during the holidays and also why you need to keep your home well-lit.
5. Safety-Proof Your Home
The risk of falling is greater in people with Alzheimer’s according to numerous studies. This risk mostly has to do with the degeneration of brain areas that control movement, coordination, and spatial memory. Since there is always the risk of your loved one trying to escape the fuss happening during Christmas, there is also a greater risk of them falling. To ensure that your home and your loved one are safe, make sure to use non-slip rugs, bath mats, and remove* any obstacles in the hallways. Also, don’t leave presents and any other items lying around your home to avoid falls and tripping. The National Institute on Aging has provided a list of tips on how to safety-proof your home completely for people with Alzheimer’s. Among the bits of advice provided by the National Institute of Aging, you will find hiding your spare keys, not using extension cords, keeping medication locked. Also, if you have a lock on the inside of your bathroom door, make sure to remove* the lock as a person with Alzheimer’s may lock themselves accidentally. Another thing to keep in mind is that you should keep matches and cigarette lighters out of reach from a person with Alzheimer’s.
6. Keep Your Loved-One Engaged
The holidays are a perfect time of keeping your loved one engaged and having fun. From decorating the home to preparing meals, there are so many things that you can do together with your loved one. Research shows that stimulating activities improve* functioning and memory in people with diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s. Although there is no cure* and treatment that can reverse and slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s, that does not mean that there is nothing you can do to improve* the quality of life of your loved one. Stimulating activities can help your loved one stay emotionally engaged and keep their functioning at high levels. However, make sure to do one activity at a time with your loved one. A study published in the journal Neurology found that the risk of falling is greater in people with Alzheimer’s when they walked and talked at the same time. Multitasking is simply not possible, nor recommended with people with these types of neurological disorders. Make sure to talk to your loved one while they are in a sitting position and keep your communication at practical levels when you are engaging them in activities such as meal preparation or present unwrapping.
7. Consider Asking for Help
Christmas season can become stressful for anyone, let alone for an Alzheimer’s sufferer caregiver. To make things a bit easier on yourself this Christmas and ensure that you and your loved one celebrate Christmas without the stress, consider asking a friend for a helping hand. You can share your responsibilities about caring for a person with Alzheimer’s during Christmas and in this way, ensure that no accidents happen while you are spending time with your family. Also, don’t be too hard on yourself if you can’t seem to finish everything that you’ve planned for this Christmas. Instead, enjoy the time with your family and focus on keeping your loved one engaged in Christmas activities. Don’t blame yourself for not attending to everyone’s need this Christmas. After all, caring for a person with Alzheimer’s is your greatest responsibility and other things become secondary to this obligation.
8. Learn to Communicate
People like to share stories during Christmas gatherings, but people with advanced Alzheimer’s are often difficult to include into these types of conversations. However, communicating with your loved one will make them feel safe and appreciated. Although it is true that meaningful communication with people with advanced Alzheimer’s is near-impossible, there are ways you can go around your loved one’s disability and establish a quality communication pattern. This is especially important during the holiday season when people with Alzheimer’s may feel particularly lonely. Studies show that the efficiency of communication with a person with Alzheimer’s disease largely depends on how well their caregivers interpreted the emotion behind what the Alzheimer’s person is trying to convey. Let your loved one speak and share if they would like to this Christmas and give your best to understand what they are trying to convey. Any type of emotional response towards them is bound to create feelings of safety and happiness in your loved one. It goes without saying that the same is true for people who are not in the later stages of the disease and who have a lot that they could say about themselves and their past as you gather around for Christmas.
9. Tell your Guests To Bring Useful Gifts
Although it may sound unusual that you can tell your guests what to buy the person with Alzheimer’s for Christmas, this is actually what is recommended by the Alzheimer’s Association. After all, you are caring for a person that needs plentiful support and help from anyone who can provide them and yourself with that help. There is also a lot that you as a caregiver any your loved one can find useful in order to manage the disease Having unsafe gifts around your house presents a hazard to the Alzheimer’s person. Discourage people from purchasing electronic devices, difficult board games, and pets. Suggest easy to put on clothing, identification bracelets, videos of family members, and other things that can help a person with Alzheimer’s. If your loved one expresses a need to participate in gift-giving, you can either take them shopping for a gift with you or purchase the gift for them and let them wrap it.
10. Don’t Forget Your Own Needs
The holiday season can be a particularly lonely time for those caring for a person with memory problems. The reason may be that caring for someone who no longer recognizes once familiar faces can make the holiday seem frustrating. But you as a caregiver also have needs of your own and you need to vent out anything that is bothering you. Don’t let Alzheimer’s as a disease becomes a taboo subject during your family gatherings. Speak to your family about your loved one suffering with this disease and explain what you are going through. After all, Christmas is the time of sharing and there is no reason why you shouldn’t be open about your true feelings. Keeping these feelings locked in will only make you feel lonelier and this is not what you want this Christmas. Also, take time for yourself and meditate on what you want this Christmas for yourself and your loved ones.
Christmas Day is a time that presents many joys and challenges for the Alzheimer’s suffer and their caregiver. From an increased risk of accidents and wandering to more stress for the caregiver, Christmas can be too much of a fuss for those dealing with Alzheimer’s. But on the positive side, you can also have plenty fun during Christmas and make the experience great for you and your loved one. By following the tips given here, we’re sure that you and your loved one will celebrate this Christmas with no stress and plenty of enjoyment, without memory loss being the main issue on the table. After all, Christmas is meant to be the day when you remember and appreciate the good things in life and set aside all the negatives for the time being.
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