Holidays can be a wonderful time of year filled with family, food and laughter. However, it can also bring on stressful times and hurried schedules for everyone. This is why the holidays can be especially hard for those with memory loss.
People living with memory loss do best when things are kept to an even keel. They tend to feel most comfortable in surroundings and with people they are most familiar. As a result, caregivers find that some people with memory loss become more agitated or forgetful during this time of revelry.
However, celebrating the holidays with your loved one with memory loss is extremely important. You may just need to adapt your expectations and current way of celebrating to incorporate their needs into the mix. Here are some tips that will hopefully help you have the merriest of holidays:
Follow Past Traditions – What was one way that your family always celebrated Christmas? In my family, my grandmother always served lutefisk. Today, lutefisk would be the farthest from my family’s taste buds, but if helps my loved one with memory loss bring back a memory or even a smile, I would say, “pass the butter please!” However, it does not have to be food. Perhaps it is singing Christmas carols before opening presents. Music is one memory that is typically held far into the disease process; even those with severe memory loss or who can no longer speak may sing a verse or two of “Yankee Doodle.” Try breaking into Silent Night with your loved one and see what happens!!!
Simplify – We all want a seven course meal at Christmas with eggnog and eighty dozen kinds of cookies to munch on. However, for our loved one with memory loss those extra special trappings are not important and can be intimidating. They just want to be safe, happy and healthy. It is important to keep in mind, what really needs to be done to make this time special for everyone. Maybe it is ordering pizza so that the family can sit and reminisce with Grandma or fixing one course of Dad’s favorite food, even if it is a grilled cheese sandwich. It is the time you spend together, not in front of the stove that truly matters.
Family and Friends – It is important that family and friends see your loved one. However, realize that a big crowd of people, especially small children, can be overwhelming. It may be best to set up specific times for different groups to visit. By doing this you also ensure that your loved one gets to spend quality time with each one of their visitors. Ask your guests to bring old photos of them with your loved one. Ask them to reminisce about the photos with your loved one and then add them to a scrapbook that your loved one can look through after the holidays are over.
Gifts – When searching for a gift try finding something that is traditional, simple and reminds your loved one of special moments in their life. A scrapbook is a great gift, as most people enjoy looking at pictures and it can usually help bring back memories. A CD of their favorite music or a replica of a car that they once owned may also help trigger memories.
Of course, clothing and other essential items are also wonderful gifts to give and their immediate caregiver will be most grateful, but for the person and for you finding a gift that brings back a memory is truly the greatest gift of all. These magic moments make the holidays truly merry for everyone.