Holidays can be a bittersweet time for dementia patients and caregivers alike.  The happy memories of the past contrast sharply with the difficulties and the constant changes of the present. 

Martila Sanders of Brookdale Assisted Living joined Tim Collins on 95.3 WBCK for a Miles for Memories Moment and shared some tips.

  • If your loved one is at home, try to keep and adapt the traditions that are important to you and your family.
  • Recognize that things will be different and have realistic expectations about what may or may not be possible.
  • If you’ve traditionally had large gatherings for holiday meals, consider downsizing.
  • Encourage friends and family to visit but suggest they come at the times your loved one will be at his or her best and try staggering the visitations so that everyone does not come at once.  Too many people at one time might be confusing.
  • Suggesting that people come before or after the holidays might be a solution to “crowd control” as well as allow your loved one to have company more often.  
  • If you will be entertaining people who have not visited in awhile, take a minute to tell them about the physical or mental changes they can expect.
  • If your loved one is in an assisted living facility but able to handle an “outing,” you might consider bringing him or her home for the day to experience some of the holiday traditions they might remember.
  • Again, keeping the number of guests small and scaling back some of the usual activities will probably be best.  

And remember that the excitement of the day will likely be tiring for them so be prepared to return them to their facility if you notice they are showing signs of stress.

Some of the same ideas apply when it comes visiting loved ones in an assisted living facility.  You can suggest that family and friends visit – and not just at holiday time, but throughout the year.  

Some assisted living facilities invite family members to share the holiday meal and that might be a nice way to capture some of the tradition of holidays past in their new setting.  And remember and remind your guests: if the person you are visiting does not recognize you, or is unkind or distracted, do not take it personally. It’s NOT personal, it’s the disease.

Miles for Memories is creating solutions for those impact by dementia in Calhoun County through movement, programming and research.