While you are looking forward to spending the holiday season with family and friends, it may be a little different this year. Perhaps a parent, grandparent or even a dear friend suffering from a form of Dementia is in a nursing home this time around. You may be questioning yourself how to celebrate the holiday festivities with them in this situation or even if you should do it at all.
Some elderly individuals know that they can’t spend the holidays in their own home, and that can be difficult. If your elderly loved one does not want to talk about it respect their decision. Just don’t pretend that the holidays are not coming.
First things first before you plan to celebrate the holidays or any other special occasion in a nursing home, make sure you check with the nursing home staff. It may be okay to have holiday celebrations in the nursing home, most of them embrace it and want to have their residents happy, but there some nursing homes have stricter rules regarding celebrations.
Even having a Christmas tree in rooms may not be allowed especially if that particular facility has patients who require intensive medical care or have Dementia. Having certain decorates such as pinecones or fake fruit could be mistaken as food for someone who is suffering from Alzheimer's. So keep the decorations simple. Here is what you can do to bring the holiday cheer to your loved one in the Nursing Home.
Bringing them a home cooked meal that is familiar. The food will remind your loved one of a time that they used to make that excellent dish if it was one of their unique family recipes from their past. Make sure that the food meets their current dietary restrictions if they are on medications, have unique health needs, or is unable to eat specific foods because of their dementia.
Music is important. Traditional Christmas music can be very nostalgic, bringing back memories of younger years. Be sure to sing songs like “We wish you a Merry Christmas” or “The First Noel” that you and your loved one can enjoy.
Dementia varies from person to person, so it’s important not to have expectations of how an activity or experience will go. Often during the holiday things won’t go as planned, but it will be joyful at points of time. It’s these special moments that, if you notice them, will make the whole experience meaningful and worthwhile.
Timing is crucial an individuals that suffer from a form of dementia experience sundowner’s syndrome – a condition causing increased agitation and confusion in the evening and nighttime hours. So because of this, it’s best to plan your event earlier in the day. A holiday brunch or lunch will allow for the most quality time together. If the celebration has to be in the evening because of family obligations, keep the area of the event well lighted and let your loved one get rest if he or she is showing signs of fatigue.
While being flexible will be essential, it’s important to remember that a person with dementia will very often rely on a regular daily routine to feel secure and comfortable. Visiting friends or family outside of their usual environment, and taking part in unfamiliar activities, could cause anxiety. Try to stay as close to their scheduled routine as possible.
Celebrating the holidays in a nursing home does not have to be uneventful, but if you go in with a plan and can be flexible, it will be enjoyed by all.
Happy Holidays to you and your loved one.