Five Tips for Caring for a Loved One with Dementia During the Holidays 

The holidays are a wonderful, beautiful time of year.  If you’re a caregiver, you might feel it’s more challenging to enjoy the season.  Here are some suggestions to help you cope.

 Include Your Loved One in the Preparations

No one wants to feel like a fifth wheel.  Even when mom or dad cannot do as much, find the little things where they can help.  Some activities might be hanging decorations, arranging the table, decorating cookies… even wrapping presents.  Just as they did with you when you were little, if the cookies get too many sprinkles or if the wrapping is a little messy, who cares?

Give a Heads Up to Guests

You might be a pro at dealing with the repetitive questions, or ignoring the fact that dad wants to wear a wool hat inside.  Let your guests know in advance whatever odd issue they might expect.  Remind them what it was like when they were toddlers and did lots of funny things.  The two golden rules of dementia care are:

  • Don’t correct, redirect! Just agree, or change the topic.
  • If it doesn’t hurt anyone, let it be.

Designate a Quiet Room

If you are going to have company, select one room specifically for mom or dad to escape if things become too noisy or hectic. Alert your guests that grandpa needs a quiet place to escape from stress.

Keep Up with Traditions

Even if it seems that dad is “out of it,” it doesn’t mean he does not remember past traditions.  Favorite songs, holiday foods or other traditions can help a loved one with dementia connect to the celebrations.  Just because you don’t see a reaction does not mean there isn’t one.  Stick with your favorite traditions as much as possible.

Take Care of Yourself

When you are busy, it’s easy to let your own needs slip. If you take care of yourself, you’ll be in a better position to do the same for others.  No excuses!  Make time for healthy meal preparation and exercise.  Further, no one said you have to attend every social event of the season and that you must host parties in your home.  Protect your time to relax and enjoy loved ones.

Caring Corner

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About the Author:

Lorenzo Mejia and his wife, Mary Lynn Ryerson, are the owners of Acorn, a caregiver registry located in Chapel Hill.

They founded Acorn based on their experiences caring for his mom, who suffered with Alzheimer’s Disease.  In 2013, he became a Qualified Dementia Care Specialist.  In 2014, the Alzheimer’s Foundation named him the Dementia Care Professional of the Year in the United States.

Lorenzo is the founder of Dementia Friendly Orange County an effort to make local businesses more accommodating to people with dementia.

Lorenzo speaks often on dementia and the challenges associated with caring for loved ones.  He has been interviewed by ABC News and National Public Radio.  He is an advisor to Orange County’s OC-CARES Dementia Capable Community Project.