Alzheimer's Assn. offers suggests to reduce holiday stress

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Holidays are a time for families to rejoice in laughter and reflect on happy memories. The mix of holiday festivities and dementia, however, make for an interesting brew. For families coping with Alzheimer's, the holidays can be bittersweet times, filled with stress and frustration. Festivities can agitate, confuse, and over stimulate persons with Alzheimer's disease and other dementias.

Meanwhile, caregivers can feel anxious, frustrated, and lonely - leading to stress and depression. It is easy to become distracted from the spirit of celebration by worrying about reducing a loved one's anxiety, or protecting everyday routines at events that are anything but routine. This all takes some thinking and planning. Dementia care relates to this spirit: looking after one another in difficult times, because this honors the best in us. The magic lies in having some fun while we're at it! Many families choose to continue long-standing traditions that reassure them family life is larger than dementia. Loved ones with Alzheimer's may be comforted by familiar patterns and find delight in the vitality of the young. On the other hand, others plan around needs of the person with dementia in order to reduce the risk of frustration and blame.

The Alzheimer’s Association tells families that with some planning and adjusted expectations, the holidays can still be happy and memorable for everyone. A few tips from the Association include:

l Make sure others know:

Let guests know what to expect before they arrive and tell them how they can help. For example, what activities can they do with the person with Alzheimer’s or how best to communicate with them. l Take care of yourself:

Try to make these celebrations easy on yourself and with the person with Alzheimer's disease so that you may concentrate on enjoying your time together. Set limits by telling family and friends that you intend to control stress this holiday season. Ask for assistance for you and your loved one. Attend an Alzheimer's Association support group that will allow you to discuss ways to overcome holiday stress. Prepare to deal with post-holiday letdown. Arrange for in-home care (respite care) so you can enjoy a movie or lunch with a friend and reduce post-holiday stress.

l Build on traditions and memories:

Take time to experiment with new traditions that might be less stressful or a better fit with your caregiving responsibilities. For example, if evening confusion and agitation are a problem, turn your holiday dinner into a holiday lunch.

l Involve the person with Alzheimer’s:

Depending on abilities and preferences, make sure to keep the person with Alzheimer’s involved in the celebrations, such as packing cookies in tins or helping wrap gifts. 

l Plan ahead:

When attending a holiday party, prepare the host for special needs, such as a quiet room for the person to rest in away from the noise and distractions.

Additional information is made available by the Alzheimer’s Association through its 24/7 Helpline which provides reliable information and support to all those who need assistance. Call us toll-free anytime day or night at 1-800-272-3900. The Helpline will be open all Christmas Day and New Years Day, as well as year round.

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