Holiday Survival Guide: Practical Tips for Family Caregivers

November 29, 2018

EC PlayingChimes Small.jpgCelebrating the holidays is special, but at times can be stressful for families and caregivers of individuals living with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. As the disease progresses, the person with dementia and their family caregivers have a hard time reacting to their needs while continuing to keep up the traditions their family has experienced for decades. The need for structure and a calm environment can hinder or change the plans for the holidays. Let’s look at ways to help you navigate through family time together while helping your love one with dementia enjoy the season too.

Visits and Outings: When planning visits or outings for an individual with dementia consider the following to make the most out of it for both you and your loved one. If your loved one is living in a memory care community a good resource for understanding what he or she can handle is the care staff.  

  • Think about the motivation or goal for your visit. As dementia progresses their world gets smaller and it is sometimes difficult for families to understand this.  What the family members desire in a visit with their loved one may not match what that person can handle due to their dementia. The family members may need to take a step back and lower the expectations on how holidays should look. In the end the most important part is to be there for your loved one, no matter what it looks like. 
  • Think about the attention span and duration of a visit or outing. Attention span and ability to cope outside of a familiar environment may change as a person’s dementia progresses. Some individuals get more out of short visits rather than long ones which can over stimulate and cause more anxiety or confusion.   
  • Visit in small groups. Large groups can be over stimulating and increase anxiety and confusion for those with dementia. By reducing the number of visitors, you will find your loved one able to enjoy the time with everyone better.  
  • Plan simple activities. Keep in mind that an individual with middle stage dementia typically can complete 2-3 steps in an activity successfully. Finding simple 1-3 step activities involving participation is a great way to keep everyone engaged. Too many steps in a task can cause agitation and frustration.    
  • Listen to your loved one. Pay attention to signs of stress or overload. Keep in mind, these signs may come as forms of verbal and non-verbal communication. If you pick up on a sign from your loved one, it is important to create a calming environment. 

Signs of Stress and Overload: These will come in both verbal and non-verbal signs. Here are just a few to look for. 

  • Wringing of hands
  • Shifting weight from one foot to another
  • Increase rate of breathing
  • Red or flushed face
  • Increased pacing
  • Increased volume in voice
  • Intrusiveness with others
  • Repetitive questions

If you are noticing signs of stress or overload your loved one is trying to tell you it’s too much to handle, basic needs are not being met, or some calm and structure is in order.

Simple Activities:  Below are activity ideas to create engagement of your loved one with family members. 

  • Simple crafts involving the children
  • Music or a family sing a-long
  • Baking
  • Objects for reminiscing

Emerald Crest by Augustana Care understands the added stress that is placed on families when visiting during the holiday season. With a little preparation, patience, and understanding, time spent with a loved one the holidays can be a time of joy and nostalgia together. 

With four locations in Burnsville, Minnetonka, Victoria, and Shakopee, Minnesota, Emerald Crest by Augustana Care senior care communities are truly inspired by our residents and families. With a deep knowledge of memory care, we offer a specialized assisted living setting for seniors with Alzheimer’s and other dementia-related conditions. This experience allows us to create opportunities and personalized care for your loved one that goes beyond conventional senior memory care. Contact us today if you have questions or would like to schedule a tour. 

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The layout of Emerald Crest is terrific, its like visiting a home (not the hospital hallway, with a small lounge on the end!)  The health care model of Emerald Crest  is “OUTSTANDING”.  The professional staff provide care with love, hugs, and individual attention.  The caregivers were of the same mode.  We were fortunate to choose Emerald Crest for mom!

— Gary, son of Emerald Crest resident