We are honored that you have entrusted Encore to provide daily care for your loved one. The holiday season is fast approaching, and we want to give you some tips to help you and your loved one make the most of the holidays.
One of the main reasons our program provides measurable benefits surrounds the idea of routine. “Very Well Health” says that the benefits of routine include:
- Maintains Functions: Practicing an activity regularly, whether it’s a physical or mental task, may increase the likelihood of that ability remaining.
- Reduces Anxiety: The predictability of a routine can decrease anxiety. The person with dementia may feel more comfortable and confident if he knows what to expect.
- Decreases Caregiver Stress: Routines can lessen the stress for those caring for people with dementia by making the day more organized and possibly decreasing the chance of challenging behaviors.
- Allows for Some Independence: Activities that have been practiced regularly, such as daily folding the laundry, can increase self-esteem and confidence because the person can perform it independently. Especially in the earlier stages of dementia when people are more likely to be aware of cognitive deficits, independence in a task can be an encouragement to them.
Knowing these benefits, it’s important to try and keep your loved one attending Encore during the holidays just as you did during other times of the year. Our 11+ years of experience has shown us and our families that making a change to a guest’s weekly schedule can result in serious challenges. All the hard work you have done in getting your loved one settled in at Encore can be erased in a matter of days. We are putting together some really exciting programming for the holiday season and encourage you to have your loved one participate in as many of these programs as possible. Attached you find some tips published by the Alzheimer’s Organization to help you and your loved one have the best holiday season possible.
The holidays are often filled with opportunities for togetherness, sharing, laughter and memories. But they can also bring stress, disappointment, and sadness. A person living with Alzheimer’s may feel a special sense of loss during the holidays because of the changes he or she has experienced. At the same time, caregivers may feel overwhelmed maintaining traditions while providing care.
In the early stage, a person living with Alzheimer’s may experience minor changes. Some may withdraw and be less comfortable socializing, while others may relish seeing family and friends as before. The key is to check in with each other and discuss options. A simple “How are you doing?” or “How are you coping with everything?” may be appreciated. Plan the holidays together, focusing on the things that bring happiness and letting go of activities that seem overwhelming or stressful.
As the disease progresses into the middle and late stages, review your holiday plans to ensure they are still a good fit. Everyone is unique and finding a plan that works can involve trial and error. The following tips may help you make the holidays easier and happier occasions:
Call a face-to-face meeting or arrange for a group discussion via telephone, video chat or email for family and friends to discuss holiday celebrations. Make sure that everyone understands your caregiving situation and has realistic expectations about what you can and cannot do. No one should expect you to maintain every holiday tradition or event.
Give yourself permission to do only what you can reasonably manage. If you’ve always invited 15 to 20 people to your home, consider inviting five for a simpler meal. Think about having a potluck dinner, asking someone to order and bring dinner, or asking others to host.
Familiarize others with your situation by writing a letter or email similar to the following:
I’m writing to let you know how things are going at our house. We’re looking forward to your visit, and we thought it might be helpful for you to understand our current situation before you arrive.
You may notice that __ has changed since you last saw him/her. Among the changes you may notice are __ . I’ve enclosed a picture so you know how __ looks now. Because __ sometimes has problems remembering and thinking clearly, his/her behavior is a little unpredictable.
Please understand that __ may not remember who you are and may confuse you with someone else. Please don’t feel offended by this. He/she appreciates your being with us and so do we. Please treat __ as you would any person. A warm smile and a gentle touch on __ ‘s shoulder or hand will be appreciated more than you know.
We would ask that you call when you’re nearby so we can prepare for your arrival. With your help and support, we can create a holiday memory that we’ll all treasure.
Involve the person living with Alzheimer’s.
Involve the person in safe, manageable holiday preparation activities that he or she enjoys. Ask him or her to help you prepare food, wrap packages, help decorate or set the table. (Avoid using candies, artificial fruits, and vegetables as decorations because a person living with dementia might confuse them with real food. Blinking lights may also confuse the person.)
Maintain the person’s normal routine as much as possible, so that holiday preparations don’t become disruptive or confusing. Taking on too many tasks can wear on both of you.
Build on traditions and memories. Your family member may find comfort in going caroling, but you may also experiment with new traditions that might be less stressful or a better fit with your caregiving responsibilities, such as watching seasonal movies.
Try to be flexible.
Celebrate over lunch or brunch, rather than an evening meal, so you can work around the evening confusion (sundowning) if it sometimes affects the person living with Alzheimer’s. Consider serving nonalcoholic drinks and keeping the room bright. Prepare for post-holiday letdown. Arrange for in-home care so you can rest, enjoy a movie or have lunch with a friend, and reduce post-holiday stress and fatigue.