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Holidays and Alzheimer's: Tips to enjoy the season

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The holidays are always hectic, but for those caring for an elderly parent or a loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia, there are often added layers of stress. Unhappy emotions – like frustration or sadness –may bubble to the surface at a time when it seems as if everyone else is feeling festive. 

Families can handle the holidays more smoothly and calmly by planning ahead, says Jerri Johnston, director of sales and marketing at Autumn Leaves of Flower Mound.

“It’s important to set realistic expectations,” she says. “You may not do everything the way you’ve always done it. That’s okay.”

Those caring for loved ones should ask for help, Johnston adds. If Mom always cooked the big family meal for the holiday, this may be the year to pass the tradition along to another family member, or to host a potluck and let others bring favorite dishes, too.

Other tips for caregivers for navigating the holidays:

Timing is everything. Many people with dementia are less likely to experience agitation or confusion in the morning. When possible, scheduling events earlier in the day may help.

Schedule quiet time. Allowing time to pause, away from crowds and noise, is important for a person living with dementia, as well as the caregiver. 

Take care of physical and mental health. Adult day stay or respite care can give caregivers some time for a short getaway, or just a movie and lunch with a friend. “It’s really important to take breaks for rest and renewal,” Johnston says. “Sometimes caregivers feel guilty about that, but when you care for yourself, you’re a better caregiver.”

Prepare for the post-holiday letdown. Almost everyone experiences this from time to time. But for those who are full-time caregivers, the post-holiday blues can hit even harder. Plan a post-holiday activity – a massage or a dinner out – to rejuvenate.

Autumn Leaves of Flower Mound offers a monthly support group that’s open to the public as well as day stay and respite care.  For information, call 972-355-5432. The memory care community is located at 3201 Karnes Road in Flower Mound.

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