The holiday season is a time for celebration and thanks for all that we enjoy in life and for the loved ones around us. It is also often a time of stress as schedules become hectic and routines are disrupted. While our elderly relatives and friends are certain to enjoy the holidays, those around them should be aware of how much disruption is created and observant of any changes since the last time you saw them.
If you are visiting an aging loved one at home for the first time in a while, it is important to be aware of signals that all might not be going well and it is time to look into assistance for them. The following can be signs that a change in their ability has taken place and help might be in order:
- Doesn’t seem as attentive to conversations and able to keep up.
- Unusually fidgety.
- Very forgetful, especially immediately forgetting.
- Dad, who always shaved every day has stopped and is not totally aware of it.
- There are medications on the kitchen counter but neither mom nor dad is sure what each is for.
- An unusual amount of expired or spoiled food in the refrigerator.
- An overflowing clothes hamper.
- A once tidy home seems cluttered with papers, mail and overflowing wastebaskets.
- Bills stacked up with past due notices.
- Difficulty getting up and moving around the house.
Not any one of these might be especially worrisome, but several of them is reason for concern and a discussion.
Of course, the holidays are also a time of fun. However, keep in mind, whether visiting an aging loved one at home, or at their senior community or them visiting your home, that they will likely not have the stamina of those younger and can get overwhelmed. This is especially true if they are suffering with dementia or Alzheimer’s. Here are some tips for making the holiday easier on those with dementia:
- Consider a smaller gathering or a shorter time frame.
- Arrange the gathering earlier in the day to avoid sun downing.
- Have a quiet space available at the gathering, that they can go to if over stimulated.
- Don’t correct their reality, just roll with it.
- Play music to help remembrance.
- Try not to over stimulate them with flashing lights and loud conversation.
- Have familiar aromas such as mom’s sugar cookies, or something they enjoy.
While these tips are especially important for those with dementia, they are good for any aging loved one who is not used to the activity and crowds.
If they are up to it, consider some special, yet simple, activities that will bring familiarity and joy.
- Attend a local Holiday performance (dance, play, or movie).
- Visit bringing a family scrapbook of photos and memories.
- Cookie baking and decorating.
- Gift wrapping or shopping.
- Throw your own Holiday party.
- Go out to dinner or lunch.
- Attend church together.
Remember, it isn’t always what you do, it is that you are doing something and making an effort. No one wants to be alone during the holidays, and isolation is the worst thing for the elderly. Make it a time that everyone can enjoy in whatever ways they are able.
We wish all of our residents, care professionals, and all of their families the happiest of holidays.