Helping Have a Special Dementia Christmas

The holidays can bring their own stresses during the best of times but when you have a family member with dementia things can be even more of a challenge.  Early dementia can mean friends and family may not notice any changes, but later stages of the disease may show signs that are more obvious to those who haven’t interacted with Mom or Dad in a while.  It might be helpful to send a letter or email to those coming for a visit that they may notice some behavior changes caused by the disease and not the person.  Ask them to be patient, not interrupt or correct, giving the person time to finish his or her thoughts.  Try to keep overtalking and noise to a minimum to avoid a stressful environment.

Involve Mom in the preparation of the get together: ask her to help prepare food, wrap presents, decorate or set the table as she is able.  Try to maintain routine as much as possible avoiding things that might be disruptive or confusing.  Focus on things that bring joy and happiness and abandon things that cause stress or are overwhelming for them or you as a caregiver.  Keeping with traditions as a family will bring on fond memories and familiarity.  Talk about those rituals as you prepare and when everyone is gathered.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  Gift suggestions for Mom may include favorite things but shouldn’t include dangerous tools, utensils, challenging games, complicated electronics or pets.  If friends or family members ask you what you’d like for a gift, you may want to suggest a gift card for something that will help make things easier, like house cleaning, lawn, home maintenance or laundry services, or restaurant or food delivery gift cards.