Alzheimer’s and the holidays: How to care for a loved one and make memories

Nearly 200,000 people in Missouri care for someone with Alzheimer’s, and handling the holidays can be challenging.
Published: Dec. 1, 2022 at 4:39 AM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Nearly 200,000 people in Missouri are caring for someone with Alzheimer’s, and handling the holidays can be challenging.

Celebrating the season can be overwhelming for the person with the disease but for caregivers as well. Officials at the Alzheimer’s Association of Missouri have a few tips on how to navigate the season and still make memories.

First, Talk with the primary caregiver about what holiday plans are in place. Different times of the day may be more difficult for the individual with the disease. Celebrations may need to be held earlier for everyone to enjoy time together.

Second, Consider having multiple smaller gatherings instead of a large one. Many people, music, and decorations could overwhelm the person with Alzheimer’s. Be as flexible as possible when making Christmas plans.

Finally, support the caregiver in any way you can.

“Don’t leave it to the caregiver to ask for help but reach out to them instead because it can be a very overwhelming time,” said Alzheimer’s Association of Missouri Care Consultant Kristen Hilty. “So ask how you can help them kind of be creative too. So maybe a caregiver might need help with. Maybe they want to go out and buy Christmas presents, but they can’t leave their loved one at home, so you can offer to stay with that person while they get Christmas shopping. You can offer to do even simple tasks like laundry or yard work just to make their day easier. So I would say support the caregiver by reaching out to them and then seeing what help they need.”

Another thing to keep in mind has a quiet room for the person with Alzheimer’s to escape to if the celebration becomes overwhelming or exhausting.

Caring for a family member with Alzheimer’s is challenging and often becomes too much for a person to handle. Many families place their loved ones with the disease in a nursing home.

Placing a loved one in a nursing home is never an easy decision. If you have a loved one who is in a caring community, the Alzheimers Association of Missouri has a few tips on how you can make the season special.

First, talk to the facility about decorating the room. Lots of decorations can be overwhelming, but you may be able to put up a few things to make the space festive.

Next, consider bringing in a photo album or scrapbook to share with that loved one and discuss the memories of past holidays.

“I always suggest focusing on sensor object memories,” said Hilty. “So rather than coming in and talking about present activities or asking them about bringing in objects that they might recognize as part of the holidays, maybe they have a favorite sweater they always wore, you know, I have a couple of relatives who always bring out that same Christmas sweater. So maybe you bring that Christmas sweater for them to wear.”

For more tips on how to navigate the holiday season with Alzheimer’s disease, CLICK HERE.

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