Hard to believe we are already in that season again!
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Col. 3:15
This is a little redundant, but I hope some of these brief tips can help make this next month a little brighter. 🙂
Just a few tips for the holidays if you are caring for someone with dementia, or know someone who is:
- Routine is super important when one is suffering. Smaller, quieter groups might be better than big blowouts regardless how it seems at the time. Once the pictures are all takes and the fun is over in a big blowout, there will be a week or more of trying to re-find a routine. Fitting in several small events within the normal routine, especially in early- to mid-stage would be better.
- Gifts are still loved. Think 2 things: nostalgia, time and sensory.
- Nostalgic items might be period things from the time when the person was a teen/20s. Those memories are more likely to be held longer. A photo album with lots of pretty pictures. Then go through it with them in an matter-of-fact way, not a quizzing way. (i.e. “Hey!!! There you are with Aunt Ruth! She kind of had facial hair, but she was really fun!” is MUCH better than “Hey, do you remember who that is?” Quizzes are just an opportunity to lose face in front of you and fall further and further into being too embarrassed to talk or frustrated and acting out. Similarly, don’t correct them. If they think Aunt Ruth is actually Great Aunt Helen, let it be. 🙂
- Time/sensory, in this case, is referring to time killers. Marshfield, West Plains, and it seems like a few other centers (I am very sorry 🙁 ) make fidget blankets and/or muffs. They are items with sensory things sewed to them. They may have honk horns, stuffed animals, zippers, or the like…and they function like a fidget spinner: they are something to fiddle with to stay engaged and busy. There are also puzzles, stuffed animals, and other similar Alzheimer’s -friendly toys that are helpful. Remember, we don’t want to give the impression that they are toddlers, so no Barney or Paw Patrol puzzles unless they don’t give off that vibe. Sensory items that could also fall into this are things that smell nice and nostalgic. Popcorn scented wax melts and a movie from their youth? (Remember potential hazards…candles are more dangerous than wax melts) Apple pie scents? Sounds fall into the same category…music that they love brightens their day and seems to unlock memories and cognition in short bursts sometimes.
- Quieter is better than louder. Perhaps keep the TV off and leave on some period music.
- Earlier is better than later. Sundowning (mixing day and night sleep-wise) doesn’t need any help. Don’t start a Thanksgiving or Christmas meal at 7pm that is still going (including cleanup) at bedtime. Lunchtime is better than supper.
- Keep expectations low. Go into it with the expectation to try to focus on what is left and not what is missing with your loved one. There is sooo much joy potential if we keep that in mind.
- Talk to them, not about them…especially in their presence.
- Kids and pets are ok in short bursts and not under foot. Many, many with dementia love a puppy. It is generally best to hold the pooch yourself unless they are in the state where they can do it, but not unsupervised.
- Bonus: Remember your neighbor with dementia too with the above in mind. Their family caretaker team may not even be as aware of these things although they learn them the longer they are involved. Just be mindful regardless.
- Milk every moment of joy you can. This is redundant (and kind of a cliché), but life is short. Enjoy it and document it with pictures and videos while being sure to stay present. There is likely a teen around that can help with the documenting. 😉
Thank you all! Happy Holidays!
Update: Mom seems to be about the same. We have coasted into a pretty turbulence-free month now. Coming up on 15 years since diagnosis, she deserves frequent flier miles…
I will update you again soon…will see her again tonight. I was adding up the number of visits since she has been been placed in the nursing home and we are around 1000 now. My stepfather has been more because the first 2 years he went 3 times per day. I firmly believe she gets better care with more visitors as sad of a reality as that is. It is just human nature.