Carmen Duren, Executive Director of Provident Village at Canton in Canton, Ga., says, “For most of us, the holiday season is a time of joy that we look forward to with great anticipation and excitement. It is a time for family, close friends and others we hold dear. It is also the season of giving, of love and of remembering the many blessings we have in our lives.
“As we’ve all experienced, it is also a very busy time of year with traveling, parties to attend, baking to be done, gatherings to be scheduled and a myriad of other seasonal activities – all of which can fill up our calendars and free time very quickly. For all the fun, the holidays can also be rather stressful and exhausting.”
The Holidays Can Bring Challenges for Your Loved One and You
Carmen adds, “If you are an at-home caregiver who is caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, the holidays can be a very challenging time. The caregiving role is already a very demanding one, but when coupled with the hustle and bustle of the holidays, it can become both physically and emotionally draining – even overwhelming.
“Through no fault of your own, the additional activities, sights and sounds surrounding the holidays can create more stress in your loved one. The added sensory stimulation increases their anxiety level and often triggers challenging behaviors, which add further to your responsibilities.
“However, the good news is that there are a variety of recommended steps you can take to simplify your holidays while preserving the true meaning and spirit of the season.”
Decide What Is Really Important to You and What Is Not
To help you get started with the sorting out process, the article “Holiday Stress Assessment for Caregivers” suggests that you rethink what you value most about the holidays then decide what activities you want to retain and which ones you can let go. You can begin by making a list of all of your usual holiday activities and then rank them based on what is most important to you and your family. The article also provides a helpful chart for your use in assessing the amount of stress you can handle.
Tips to Make Your Holidays More Calm and Enjoyable
In addition, the Alzheimer’s Association information on “Holidays and Alzheimer’s Families” and the Mayo Clinic article “Alzheimer’s: Tips to Make Holidays More Enjoyable” provide excellent suggestions for keeping your holidays more calm and cheerful. Key tips include:
- Prepare Your Loved One Early – Prepare your loved one for holiday visitors ahead of time. Provide a private “sanctuary” that your loved one can retreat to when things get too hectic. Avoid giving them alcohol as it can cause depression.
- Keep Things Calm – Loved ones with dementia can feel overwhelmed or irritated with the change in normal routine and increased levels of noise, people and overall stimulation. Try to limit your number of guests and visitors at any one time. If your loved one is in the earlier stages of the disease, keep in mind they may also have anxiety about others noticing their impairment.
- Be Practical – You can only do so much! Set realistic expectations for yourself and your loved one. Avoid taking on too many tasks and consider scaling down your traditions (e.g. limiting travel and reducing your number of guests for parties).
- Limit Your Decorations – Over decorating and using bright blinking lights can cause overstimulation. Avoid lighted candles and other safety hazards as well as decorations that could be mistaken for edible treats — such as artificial fruits. Also, do not rearrange your furniture as this can cause confusion.
- Involve Your Loved One to the Extent They Are Able – You can share the joy with your loved one and enjoy the season in many ways. Take a ride to see holiday decorations, sing or listen to holiday music, read cards, bake cookies or hang ornaments together.
- Be Open and Honest with Others – Let family and friends know aboutyour loved one’s condition and your concerns. Prepare them for what to expect and how best to communicate with your loved one. Let them know that their patience and understanding is important and much appreciated.
- Give Safe, Useable Gifts – Your loved one will enjoy such gifts as photo albums of family and friends, stuffed animals or soft pillows, favorite music, videos and movies and simple games.
- Ask for Help and Support – Frequently, friends and relatives want to help, but don’t know how. Ask them for specific assistance during the holidays (e.g. “Please pick up Mom’s prescriptions the first Monday of each month.”)
Also, a gift certificate for respite care can afford your loved one a change of scenery while providing you with some valuable time off from your caregiving responsibilities. This will enable you to relax, recharge your batteries or go out with friends.
- When Visiting or Traveling – When visiting friends and family, take a favorite “comfort item” with you and prepare the hosts for your loved one’s special needs, including a quiet area away from the crowd and noise. If you’re traveling distances, be sure to plan ahead for all possible eventualities.
To quote the Mayo Clinic, “As a caregiver, it isn’t realistic to think that you will have the time or the energy to participate in all of the holiday activities as you once did. Yet, by adjusting your expectations and modifying some traditions, you can still find meaning and joy for you and your family.”
Live Vibrantly! at Provident Village at Canton
At Provident Village at Canton, we believe vibrant days ensure bright tomorrows, so we’ve created a community where seniors, quite simply, Live Vibrantly! Whether it’s in our Assisted Living Community or Memory Care Neighborhood, each day we celebrate the individuality and strengths of each resident.
At Provident Village, to Live Vibrantly! means that days are filled with joy, vitality, growth and security. It means residents are socially active and personally empowered, with access to the personalized care and support they need to live fully. It means residing in a community where intellectual, social, emotional, spiritual and physical care are seamlessly integrated into everyday life.
Our compassionate Care Partners dedicate each day to enriching the lives of our residents. They customize the level of attention and activities to each resident’s specific needs and abilities. Our living environments are warm and inviting, with comfortable furnishings, beautiful fixtures and natural elements that bring the outdoors inside.