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With the holiday season vastly approaching this is a good time to discuss helpful tips to support caregivers of patients with dementia or Alzheimer’s. The most important step for anyone, not just caregivers is planning in advance for any holiday gathering. If you are a caregiver of someone with Alzheimer’s you already know that large crowds can be overwhelming for both your loved one and you.

Give yourself permission to do only what you can reasonably manage: No one can expect you to maintain every holiday tradition or event. If you’ve always invited 15-20 people to your home, consider inviting five for a simple meal. Also consider asking others to bring dishes for a “potluck” meal or to host the meal at their home.

You may wish to familiarize others with the situation by composing a letter or an email that makes these points:

“I’m writing this letter to let you know how things are going at our house. While we’re looking forward to your visit, we thought it might be helpful if you understood our current situation before you arrive. “You may notice that ____ has changed since you last saw him/her. Among the changes you may notice are ___. I’ve enclosed a picture so you know how ___ looks now. “Because ___ sometimes has problems remembering and thinking clearly, his/her behavior is a little unpredictable. Please understand that ___ may not remember who you are and may confuse you with someone else. Please don’t feel offended by this. He/she appreciates your being with us and so do I. Please treat ___ as you would any person. A warm smile and a gentle touch on ___’s shoulder or hand will be appreciated more than you can know. “I would ask that you call before you come to visit or when you’re nearby so we can prepare for your arrival. Care giving is a tough job, and I’m doing the very best I can. With your help and support, we can create a holiday memory that we’ll treasure.”

Try to be flexible: Consider celebrating a brunch or lunch to avoid late afternoon or evening dinner times if your loved one experiences sun-downers or increased confusion later in the day.

Prepare your loved one with Alzheimer’s for visitors: If possible, begin showing a picture of the guest(s) to the person a week before the arrival. Spend more time each day explaining who the visitor is while showing the picture. Keep the memory-impaired person’s routine as close to normal as possible during the hustle and bustle of the holidays. For example, if you are having a gathering at your home and your loved one typically takes a nap from 1-3pm every afternoon; arrange visitors around this time, or make sure you are able to excuse yourself to provide care for your loved one during this time.

If you need additional support with your loved one please give us a call at 610-933-6130 and we can arrange respite services to help you during this busy time of year!

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