“As much as we all look forward to the joys of the holiday season, we also know from experience that it can be a very busy and sometimes stressful time of year,” says Lonette Bentley, Executive Director at Clarity Pointe™ Pensacola, the beautiful new memory care community opening this December in Pensacola, Florida.
“For the increasing number of families providing memory care for loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia, the normal challenges of the busy holiday season can become even greater.”
As noted by Angela Lunde, memory care caregiving expert with the Mayo Clinic, the combination of physical and emotional issues that converge during the holidays can take a toll on caregivers who might not feel so merry.
Coping with the Emotional Challenges of the Holidays
“Memories of better times may surface as reminders of what you've lost or what has changed.” Says Ms. Lunde,“Often, it's a time when you believe you should be happy, yet increased stress, disappointment, and sadness are the prevailing emotions. At the same time, you may think that you should live up to expectations of family traditions and how things ought to be. As a caregiver, it isn't realistic to think that you will have the time or the energy to participate in all of the holiday activities as you once did.” She adds that, “For the person with dementia, the holidays can disrupt the sanctuary of the calm and structured routine that suits them best.”
How to Make It Work
The good news is that there are some simple steps you can take to maintain the spirit of the season while respecting your loved one’s circumstances.
For example, memory care authorities at the Alzheimer’s Association say that, “For families living with Alzheimer's and other dementias, the holidays can be challenging. Take a deep breath. With some planning and adjusted expectations, your celebrations can still be happy, memorable occasions.”
They suggest that a good way to get started with your holiday preparations is to make a list of those activities that have the greatest meaning for you. In deciding what holiday activities you want to retain, determine those that are most important to you and those you can do without for now. You can then review your list with other family members and organize your plans for the holiday season.
9 Memory Care Tips for the Holidays to Make the Season Calm and Bright
- Prepare Your Loved One Early – Prepare your loved one for holiday visitors well ahead of time. Provide a private “sanctuary” that your loved one can retreat to when things get too hectic. Avoid giving them alcohol as it can cause depression.
- Be Realistic and Honest – Remember, no one can do it all! Set realistic expectations for yourself and your loved one. Avoid taking on too many tasks and consider scaling down your traditions, e.g. limiting travel and reducing your number of guests. Your health and well-being are important, too!
- Don’t Over Decorate –Over decorating and using bright blinking lights can be overwhelming to your loved one and cause overstimulation and agitation. Avoid lighted candles and other safety hazards, as well as decorations that could be mistaken for edible treats — such as artificial fruits. Also, do not rearrange your furniture as this causes confusion.
- Let Your Loved One Participate Based on Their Capabilities – You can share the joy with your loved one and enjoy the season in many ways. Take a ride to see holiday lights, sing or listen to holiday music, read cards together, bake cookies or hang ornaments together.
- Rethink Your Gift Ideas –Be practical and safe.Your loved one will enjoy such gifts as photo albums of family and friends, stuffed animals or soft pillows, favorite music, videos and movies, and simple games. Experts suggest a gift certificate for respite care, which can provide your loved one a change of scenery while offering you with some valuable time off from your caregiving responsibilities to do the things that you enjoy.
- Promote Peace and Calm – Loved ones with dementia can feel overwhelmed or irritated with the change in normal routine and increased level of noise, people and overall stimulation. Try to limit your number of guests and visitors at any one time. If your loved one is in the earlier stages of the disease, keep in mind they may also have anxiety about others noticing their impairment.
- Be Open and Honest with Others – Let family and friends know aboutyour loved one’s condition as well as your concerns about them. Prepare them for what to expect and how best to communicate with your loved one. Let them know that their patience and understanding is important and much appreciated.
- Prepare for Visiting and Traveling – When visiting family and friends, take a favorite “comfort item” with you and prepare the hosts for your loved one’s special needs, including a quiet area away from the crowd and noise. If you’re traveling long distances, be sure to plan ahead for all possible contingencies.
- Be Sure to Ask for Help – Frequently, friends and relatives want to help, but don’t know how. Ask them for specific assistance during the holidays, e.g. pick up mom’s prescriptions on Tuesday.
Additionally,the article, “Alzheimer's and the Holidays: A Survival Guide,” by Ellen Barkan, President and CEO of the New York City Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, contains helpful recommendations for memory care caregivers during the holidays.
Supporting At-Home Caregivers with the Information and Assistance They Need
“At Clarity Pointe™ Pensacola, we understand the challenges memory care caregivers face, and we’re always here to help,” Lonette adds, “In addition to providing exceptional memory care for loved ones with dementia, we also offer a variety of memory care resources for families to help them meet the challenges of caring for a loved one with memory loss while continuing to have meaningful interactions and relationships.
You can also view Clarity Pointe’s valuable memory care articles and tips for at-home caregivers on a variety of helpful topics that you can use today. And as we prepare for our grand opening this December, we invite you to visit our developing website for ongoing updates and information.
Clarity Pointe … Our Difference is Clear
Clarity Pointe’s Specialized Memory Care “Living” Neighborhoods are truly changing lives for those with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias – and for those who love them. At Clarity Pointe, our mission is to ensure our residents lead connected and rewarding lives.
Unlike other providers that offer a secure memory care wing in a skilled nursing or assisted living center, Clarity Pointe Pensacola offers three freestanding, purpose-built Memory Care communities that are solely and entirely dedicated to Memory Care Assisted Living. Our communities blend luxurious surroundings with specialized care that is individualized to each resident and delivered by a compassionate, expert team of professionals.
We stay current on the latest trends and advancements in memory care and implement them into our residents’ care plans. Always moving forward, we combine the latest in evidence-based programming with luxurious, residential living, compassionate, respectful memory care and life-enriching activities that make each day meaningful.
For each of our residents, we offer a life that is engaging, fulfilling, inspiring and purposeful.