Alzheimer's Patients and the Holiday Season
The holidays can be a stressful time for Alzheimer's patients and their caregivers. Here are some things to consider.
Alzheimer's Caregiving During the Holidays
The holidays can be a particularly stressful time both for caregivers and for people with Alzheimer's. Many caregivers choose to spend the holidays with the person they care for, whether they live with them year round or invite them to stay over the holiday period. Others have a loved one living in a care home. The following information is intended to help everyone concerned to have a relaxing and enjoyable break.
If a person with Alzheimer's is visiting you over the holidays, there are many ways in which you can prepare for the visit and make things easier for both yourself and for your guest.
If the house is unfamiliar to your guest, or they become disoriented easily, putting labels on doors could help - for example, the bathroom, the kitchen, the person's own room. You could also label kitchen cupboards and drawers to help your guest find their way around more easily and feel more at home.
Think about any specialist equipment you might need, and buy or borrow it well in advance. For example, does the person need slip-proof mats or large-handled cutlery? Do you need to get extra supplies of incontinence pads?
Asking for help
Don't be afraid to ask your friends and neighbors for help. They may be happy to bring over a cooked meal for you, do a little bit of shopping, or sit with your guest for an hour or so while you have some time to yourself. Don't refuse help if somebody offers it - they may not think to offer again. If you have children, try to enlist their help - give them some tasks that they can be responsible for and explain what a difference their help makes.
Safety and security
The house may become quite noisy and busy over the holiday season, making it easier for people to leave the house unnoticed. If you are worried about your guest leaving the house alone and getting lost, talk to other members of your family and decide on a plan of action. Can you remember to keep doors leading onto busy roads closed, or even locked? Try to enlist someone to accompany the person outdoors if they 'wander'.
Remember to keep spare keys in a safe place. Check the house in the evening to make sure that doors are locked and that no windows have been left open etc.
Check your house carefully for anything that might be dangerous. Consider the following points:
- If your guest is likely to get up at night, leave a light on in the hall when you go to bed and a night light in the bedroom.
- Make sure there is a light on in the bathroom or toilet so they can find their way at night.
- Tidy away or tape down any trailing flexes, remove rugs that a person could trip on, and remove clutter or objects lying on the floor. Make sure that nothing is ever left on the stairs.
- Lock away any medicines and dangerous substances such as bleach and paint.
- If your guest no longer seems to recognize danger make sure that potentially dangerous implements, such as sharp knives, are removed from the kitchen.
- If you have an open fire, make sure that a fixed fireguard is fitted.
Food and mealtimes
Food and eating plays a large part during the holidays, and you may feel anxious about how to fully involve your guest in this, especially if they have lost their appetite or they have difficulties eating. Here are some tips:
- Don't overload your guest's plate; although many people eat a lot over the holidays, a very full plate can be quite daunting for someone who has difficulties eating.
- If they eat very slowly, consider buying an insulated plate to keep their food warmer for longer, or heating it up in the microwave if it gets too cold.
- Check whether they are happy to eat with the rest of the family; they may prefer to eat in a different room, at a different time or on their own. If at all possible, be flexible and try to accommodate this.
- Try to be open minded about any unusual food combinations that your guest chooses. They may also enjoy their food with strong or spicy sauces or seasonings that seem strange to you - if this is the case, try not to object.
- Therapeutic Caregiving: A Practical Guide for Caregivers of Persons with Alzheimer's and Other Dementia Causing Diseases, Barbara J. Bridges, R.N., M.S.N., M.S.H.C.M., M.B.A., 1998.
- Alzheimer's Society - UK - The Christmas Holidays
Staff, H. (2008, December 13). Alzheimer's Patients and the Holiday Season, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, May 28 from https://www.healthyplace.com/alzheimers/maintaining-quality-of-life/alzheimers-patients-holiday-season