Aging Parents and Holiday Season Sanity

3) Whether you are driving, flying or taking a train this holiday season, make sure you have given yourself ample time to arrive at your destination. If taking public transportation, ensure the person with dementia is sitting in the window seat and that you are sitting on the outside to avoid random wandering.

4) If staying in a hotel or an unfamiliar area, bring your own door alarm or child proof knob to help protect against wandering.

5) Try to follow and maintain the person’s regular routine as this will help reduce everyone’s stress levels and it will provide a sense of stability for the person with dementia. Do they have a particular item that is soothing?

6) If you are concerned about who/how/when someone will provide personal care services during your travels, you can always contact the personal support agency you are currently using if they have a location in the area you will be visiting, or you can contact another agency to arrange for someone local to provide personal support during your stay. This will allow the daily routine to remain as normal as possible and it will also decrease the amount of stress for the caregivers.

For caregivers, it is important to recognize your limits and take time for yourself. Try to change the expectations you place on yourself and others. Keep other family members and friends informed of your loved ones’ medical and cognitive status and seek help from them when you need a break. For the caregiver, providing some respite time can be a wonderful gift and one that is priceless. Stress and the holidays may seem to be inextricably linked but by planning outside the usual box, these tips will hopefully reduce stress for both you and your family member with dementia.

MAREP, an Alzheimer’s research organization has provided some great suggestions:

• Take your time – synchronize your pace to that of your family member with dementia. The holiday season is about enjoying quality time with family and excessive entertaining activities can be overwhelming

• Plan one activity at a time – multitasking can lead to frustration for everyone

• Understand if your family member doesn’t seem to appreciate the efforts of an elaborate dinner – they may be happy to be in your company and get anxious with all of the activity and fuss involved in meal preparation. Alternately, they may enjoy being included in the preparations for the holiday meal

• Consider the noise level and multiple distractions that cause a person with dementia a great deal of stress when with large groups of family or friends Do not be offended if they want to go home immediately after eating dinner

• Be considerate of the words “do you remember” as this often places pressure a person to reminisce and remember specifics if they have memory difficulty

• Sharing photo albums of previous holiday celebrations can assist with a relaxing form of reminiscence

• Provide a quiet place for a family member with dementia to relax – they may need some time to relax to continue with the activities of the season