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Holidays and Dementia Sufferers

The holidays are very stressful for loved ones suffering from dementia. You see my mother Mary enjoyed the holidays. She would be the person who would come up with great ideas on how to create unique gifts for friends and would teach me to build them for my co-workers. She was also the one decorating the house with wreaths and poinsettias by the fireplace.

She would be the one who would plan events at her church and at work before she retired, and people would rave about the parties she would put on. Then dementia started since she was a nurse she knew that she had the disease later I would find out that she told her husband, and not me even though I saw signs as the disease progressed.

She stopped being social. This was surprising to me because she loved helping at the church, and when I asked why she would say “Let someone else have a chance to do it.” She also stopped putting up decorations. I would take her to the events at the church and where it used to be an enjoyable event I could see where she would get confused by forgetting someone’s name or she would ask me “who was that? “and she was quick to get agitated.

She was never the person to have a lot of people in her house, but now she wouldn’t have anyone over so large family gatherings were out of the picture. As a caregiver along with her husband, we would both acknowledge that this is how it’s going to be now on. Just us three celebrating the holidays. Seeing and hearing about others holiday festivities would I guess make me kind of jealous and sad at the same time.

I found that we can make our own new way of enjoying the holiday festivities. When my mom would have good days, we would listen to holiday songs that she would like, and she would just sway at the sounds of the music. I would cook her favorite holiday recipes especially her deserts sweet potato pie for Thanksgiving, and sugar cookies for Christmas so we can remind ourselves of the sounds and smells of the holiday season.

Caregivers, I know that during your caregiving journey it’s hard to see your loved one suffering from a form of dementia. The holidays make it even more difficult. You must change routines to help your loved one to feel comfortable and safe. Don’t overwhelm them with a lot of people. I took her on short walks, and cuddled up under a blanket and watched old movies. One of our favorites was “It’s a wonderful life.”

Caregivers, I also know that during your caregiving journey you lose focus on you and it’s easy not to enjoy the holidays. Accept someone offers to help. I usually would ask someone to take a trip to the store to pick up something. Also, I have my mom’s husbands neighbor to look after him when I’m away.

Caregivers do you have some tips on how you handle the holidays with a loved one suffering from a form of dementia? Feel free to add to the conversation.

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