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How Holidays Affect Those With Alzheimer’s

How Holidays Affect Those With Alzheimer’s

Although gathering with family this Christmas season is the most difficult of our lives, it has special problems for those with Alzheimer’s. Almost half of all families at some point will have someone with Alzheimer’s. Planning for or being a part of a family celebration is what we all do, but someone with Alzheimer’s does not have that luxury. They live in the moment and understanding how a holiday celebration affects them can help hopefully make it a happy time for all.

At the start include them in planning. Maybe they could help decorate cookies or put
ornaments on a tree. If possible, have the gathering in a familiar place. A change in environment may lead to anxiety. Very bright lights, or loud music could cause irritability or confusion. If possible, have them sit on a favorite couch, or put a warm comforter in their lap. Activities that are meaningful to them can be playing traditional holiday music, retelling family stories, or going through old family albums. If a loved one incorrectly remembers family stories, they can’t help it, and its usually not helpful to correct their version. It is almost never helpful to ask, “Do you remember?” some event. This causes great frustration in someone who cannot remember and usually won’t help them remember whatever it is you want them to remember.

If some family members haven’t seen their loved one in a long time, give them a heads up on the memory or behavior issues. Brief them with the information they need to successfully communicate and never to correct or argue with a person with Alzheimer’s, as it is never helpful.

Try to have a quiet place for your loved one to relax if they start to get overloaded and let them take a break. If it is not at their place, take the usual safety precautions. Avoid throw rugs or electrical cords that are risks for tripping. For someone with dementia don’t have decorations that could be mistaken for edible treats, such as candies. Like a very young child, choking is always a risk.

All of this is largely common sense but adapting family traditions and managing
expectations can help that loved one have a warm and enjoyable experience. Lets all stay safe and wish for a healthy and less stressful new year.
Attorneys Stephen O. and Halley C. Allaire are partners in the law firm of Allaire Elder Law.
Attorneys Stephen O. and Halley C. Allaire are members of the National Academy of Elder Law. Attorneys, Inc.
Allaire Elder Law is a highly respected, and highly rated law firm with offices in Bristol, CT.
We can be contacted by phone at (860) 259-1500 or by email.

If you have a question, send a written note to us and we may use your question in a future column.

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