More Holiday Arrangements
When caring for an Alzheimer's Disease patient, there are medical and emotional needs to consider during the holiday season.
Alzeimer's Patients and Emergencies
Make sure that you know which doctors and pharmacies are open over the holiday period and ensure that you know where your nearest emergency room is. Keep a list of emergency numbers in a safe place - for example, for the gas, electricity and water, and for the local police.
Social services have an emergency duty team operating during holidays to provide statutory care. In case of emergency or crisis you can call them; the local social services department will be listed in the phone book under the name of your county or state services.
Check whether your guest is taking any medication and ensure that they have enough to get through the holidays, as getting repeat prescriptions may be difficult at this time. If they usually live in a care home, talk to their care manager about this situation.
The person with Alzheimer's
Your guest may find it unsettling to be in an unfamiliar house. Even if they live with you year-round, the atmosphere at Christmas may be very different from usual, and their routine may be disrupted. Each person with Alzheimer's will react to this differently, but some people may become more confused, upset or even aggressive. Holidays may also trigger emotional memories of the past, which could be difficult for them to deal with. Be prepared for changes in the person's behavior and try not to be alarmed. Try to understand how they might be feeling and spend some time reassuring them and listening to them.
It may help if you can think of some activities and tasks that the person might enjoy doing in quieter moments. What do they enjoy doing in their day-to-day life? What might make them feel more at home? They may have some happy memories of bygone holidays that you can reminisce about. Do you have any old photos you could look at together? The person might also enjoy puzzles, games, walking, or household tasks such as cleaning or cooking. Try to involve them in your own activities and reassure them that their help is valued.
Try to help your guest get a good night's sleep, as this may make a big difference to how well they cope during the day. Try not to allow them to take too many naps during the day, if possible, by encouraging activities and providing stimulation. Limit fluids in the evening and avoid stimulating drinks like tea and coffee. Try giving them a warm, milky drink at bedtime.
Your guest may also get some solace from spiritual activities. Think about their usual or past religious attitudes: would they like to go to church, or listen to church hymns? Talk to them about their views on the Christmas festival. Try to accommodate any particular wishes they may have if possible.
If you are caring for a guest with Alzheimer's over the holidays, you may become quite exhausted or stressed yourself. The following tips may help:
- Congratulate yourself for coping, and for being there for someone who needs you.
- Try to pace yourself and set realistic goals - if a task is not urgent, perhaps you can just let it go.
- Remember to take some time for yourself, even if it's just a few quiet minutes in the evening. You might also find it helpful to get out for a brief walk in the fresh air every now and then.
- If you are struggling and you need to talk to someone impartial, you can call the Samaritans. This is a charity providing confidential emotional support 24 hours a day, seven days a week for people who are in crisis or feel that they can no longer cope.
- Go online and and participate in chats or bulletin board discussions.
- Check your local TV, press and radio for details of local Christmas help lines. These can be very helpful if you need some advice or information about local services or if you are struggling and just need somebody to talk to.
Stress and anxiety are common during the holidays and many families experience arguments or tension at this time. Try to avoid known triggers - for example, if you tend to argue about politics in your family, try to avoid the subject.
It might help to plan a group activity after lunch so that everyone is busy and entertained. Perhaps you could all play cards together or watch a film.
Many people tend to drink more during the holidays and this can make arguments and accidents more likely. Although sociable drinking is all part of the fun for many people, try to ensure that drinking stays within sensible limits.
It may be helpful to designate a room as a 'quiet room' if possible and agree not to watch television or listen to music in there. If anyone is feeling stressed or tense, there will then be somewhere quiet for them to sit and relax for a few moments.
When your friend or loved one is staying in a care home
You may have a family member or friend who will be staying in a care home over the holiday. This is a very difficult situation for many people. Try to remember that there is no right or wrong way to handle the situation. Some caregivers like to visit their relative and spend a large part of the day with them in the home; others are not able to do this, for a variety of reasons. Whatever your situation, try not to feel guilty and do your best to enjoy the holiday. If you need to talk about your feelings, you can call the Alzheimer's Helpline or go online and speak to others in a similar situation.
- Alzheimer's Society - UK - Factsheet: Christmas Holidays, 2006.
Staff, H. (2008, December 20). More Holiday Arrangements, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, April 2 from https://www.healthyplace.com/alzheimers/maintaining-quality-of-life/more-holiday-arrangements