The holidays provide perfect opportunities to spend time with loved ones over special meals, while connecting over conversation and laughter. However, as we age the holidays can become difficult. For many older adults, illness or physical and cognitive limitations can make the holiday season stressful and uncomfortable. However, the Alzheimer’s Association compiled a list of tips and suggestions to make the holiday season as enjoyable as possible. Whether you’re a caregiver with a lot on your mind, or an adult child preparing to travel with your aging parent, here’s everything you need to make your holidays easy, fun, and safe.
It’s not unusual for those in the early stages of Alzheimer’s to feel a sense of loss during the holidays. Some people living with Alzheimer’s might feel less comfortable in social settings and are prone to withdrawing. As the disease progresses, you might consider altering your holiday plans that works best with your family member living with Alzheimer’s. Here are a few tips to help you along the way:
As the disease progresses, it’s important to keep your family members educated. Before you get together over the holidays, you might consider sending an email or letter with an update and actions to avoid or encourage. For example, if your loved one can’t remember names or who people are, it can be helpful to let your family members know this who might not be familiar with the disease.
Remember to take on only what you think you can handle. If you usually host a holiday dinner and it seems unmanageable this year, let your family members know and make other arrangements. Also, if you are a family member who is not a caregiver, understand that your holiday traditions may change to accommodate others.
If you celebrate the holidays by giving gifts, remember that some items can be dangerous to those who are living with Alzheimer’s, especially in severe cases. You might consider giving comfortable clothing, music, photo albums, treats, or an identification bracelet, which can also be helpful for the caregiver. If you are shopping for a caregiver, you might consider a gift certificate, housecleaning, or laundry services.
Involve Those with Alzheimer’s in Preparations and Celebrations
Try and keep those with Alzheimer’s engaged in the day’s activities. Giving him or her a task such as helping to prepare food, wrap packages, or decorating the dinner table might make the day more enjoyable.
As we age, traveling can become more difficult, especially when physical ability becomes more limited. If you plan on traveling for the holidays, either by car or airplane, here are some tips to help get you there safely.
• Plan ahead- When traveling with an older adult, especially if that person has dementia, you want to be prepared ahead of time. Start by planning out each aspect of your trip including flights, transportation, places to eat, and activities you want to do while you are away.
• Recognize warning signs of anxiety- If you’re traveling with someone who lives with Alzheimer’s or dementia, it’s important to know the warning signs of anxiety and how to reduce them. Create a plan with the person you’re traveling with so you will all be on the same page.
• Evaluate all options- In the beginning stages of planning, think about all of your options including places to stay and ways to travel. This way, you will be able to identify which way will be the most comfortable and accessible.
• Take advantage of airport security-If you are traveling by airplane, contact your airport beforehand and ask for help with getting through security and to your gate. This will help conserve energy and reduce the risk of falling.
• Choose accommodations carefully- When staying at a hotel, make sure to ask for exactly what you need, such as a walk-in shower or room on the first level. If you are staying with friends and family, it’s important to express your needs beforehand.
• Carry an itinerary- Before your trip, write an itinerary with all of your travel plans, including details about your trip such as flight times and names of hotels. Make copies of the itinerary to give to friends and family members in case they need to contact you.
• Carry medications with you- Make sure you pack all medications and an extra change of clothes in a carry-on bag that you can keep with you in case of emergencies.
The holiday season can be an especially difficult time for caregivers. Routines are often hard to keep, and holiday parties, while fun and exciting, can also cause holiday stress, fatigue and tiredness in older adults. If you are a caregiver, here are a few ways to tend to your physical and mental wellbeing throughout the holiday season.
Find Time for Yourself
You might consider planning for respite care, so you can make time for yourself during the holidays. Respite care is the perfect opportunity to do holiday shopping, or do something you love to do but don’t often have time for during the week.
Manage Holiday Stress
Stress can cause many different physical symptoms like stomach irritation, blurred vision, and high blood pressure. If you begin to experience any of these symptoms, make sure to consult your healthcare practitioner.
Visit Your Doctor Regularly
Take time to get your regular checkups and ask your doctor about anything that might be concerning you. This could include exhaustion, fatigue, stress, or inability to sleep. Pay attention to your body and never ignore your symptoms.
Incorporate Activities That Give You Joy
Many caregivers struggle with making time for the things they love. During this holiday season, try and incorporate holiday activities you love the most. This can help manage stress, while also helping you to enjoy the holidays.
At Maplewood Senior Living, we wish you and your family a wonderful holiday season full of joy and happiness. If you’re interested in learning more about how our community can minimize stress for you and your loved one, we encourage you to schedule a tour. It is our goal to help residents find joy and caregivers find support each and every day. Please don’t hesitate to contact us to learn more.
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