What You Need to Understand About Alzheimer’s Disease and the Holidays

As the wintertime holidays approach, families with loved ones diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease likely have questions and concerns about how to involve that family member as fully as possible in the seasonal celebrations. There are some tips and tactics to keep in mind when it comes to Alzheimer’s disease and the holiday season:

  • Adjust expectations
  • Give yourself breathing room
  • Respect other family members
  • Communicate in advance with guests
  • Recognize limitations and desires of loved one with Alzheimer’s disease
  • Adapt and adjust holiday gift giving

Adjust Expectations

At the top of the list of tips and tactics for a holiday season and a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease is to adjust expectations. While you may have enjoyed certain holiday traditions over the course of many years, when you do have a loved one with Alzheimer’s, you need to give serious consideration to adjusting expectations. Adjusting expectation will nearly always necessitate a change in at least some holiday traditions.

The fact that some things related to the holidays might need to be altered to accommodate a loved one with Alzheimer’s does not mean that the holidays will not be a joyous season. The fact is that you have the ability to build upon historic traditions to create new ones that can better include a situation in which a family member or other loved one that has Alzheimer’s disease.

Give Yourself Breathing Room

In regard to planning for and celebrating the holidays when you have a family member diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, keep in mind the importance of giving yourself some breathing room. Do not place the burden upon yourself to make sure all aspects of holiday celebrations go off like clockwork – even if that is how the seasonal events went in the past. Striving for perfection is an impossible goal and an unnecessary burden to place upon yourself.

During the holiday season, you need to be certain to carve out time for yourself. If you are the primary caretaker of a family member with Alzheimer’s, seek out someone else to oversee these tasks at different times during the holiday season. Perhaps another family member can provide you caregiving respite. If that is not possible, there are at-home care services that specialize in working with Alzheimer’s clients who can provide you some time for yourself during holiday season.

Respect Other Family Members

When it comes the holidays and a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease, keep in mind that the response to the situation can differ from one family member to another. As a consequence, you need to generally respect the thoughts and responses of different family members to the situation of celebrating the holidays when a loved one has Alzheimer’s.

You may find that you have at least one family member who is finding it difficult to come to terms with another family member now diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. You may find that such an individual may want to beg off coming to a holiday celebration under these circumstances. 

People respond to a family member with Alzheimer’s in their own ways. Hopefully, in time a person not comfortable with participating in a family holiday celebration will feel differently. 

Keep in mind that while a family member may not want to attend a large family gathering when another person in the family is afflicted with Alzheimer’s but would be keen on attending something smaller that involves the loved one with the disease. 

You should gently explore other options of that nature. What you need to avoid doing is shaming a person who is not ready for a large celebration after a family member has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

Communicate in Advance With Guests

On a related note, prior to any holiday gathering, you will want to communicate in advance with guests. You will want to share with them what to expect in regard to your family member with Alzheimer’s. You should take this course even if most family members saw the relative with Alzheimer’s not that long ago. There can be changes in that person’s actions, thought processes, and so forth within a rather short period of time – changes that may be more noticeable to people who have not been in regular face to face contact with a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease.

Recognize Limitations and Desires of Loved One With Alzheimer’s Disease

In a similar way to your considering the response to other family members in regard to Alzheimer’s and a loved one, you need to recognize the limitations as well as the desires of the person with the disease. You have to pay close attention to what that person realistically can and cannot do. In addition, you need to do your best to ascertain what a family member with Alzheimer’s disease really does and does not want to do in regard to the holiday season. 

Adapt and Adjust Holiday Gift Giving 

When it comes to a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease, adapting and adjusting what have been traditional gift giving practices is a wise course. You will want to consider adapting and adjusting gift giving in a number of different ways:

  • You will want to closely consider (even reconsider) the types of gifts you give to a loved one diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease
  • Involving a person with Alzheimer’s in the gift giving process itself is advisable
  • Finally, consider gift giving and the primary caretaker of a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease

Types of Gifts for Person With Alzheimer’s

You will want to pay closer attention to the types of gifts you consider giving to an individual with Alzheimer’s. Part of that consideration will need to include how advanced the disease has become.

With this in mind, gifts that can be ideal for a person with Alzheimer’s disease include clothing items that are both comfortable and easy to get (bearing in mind that a person with Alzheimer’s may be at least somewhat challenged dressing his of her self or may require dressing assistance from someone else). Other gift ideas include a person’s favorites treats. Access to music that a person particularly enjoys is also a good course to take when it comes to holiday gift giving for a person with Alzheimer’s. Similarly, perhaps a loved one in this position likes certain movies or TV shows, which can be given as holiday gifts.

Involving Person With Alzheimer’s in Gift Giving Process

Depending on a loved one with Alzheimer’s abilities and preferences, involve that person in the gift giving process. This can include taking the loved one shopping to select gifts and assisting them in wrapping the items. In the alternative, if such a shopping trip is not entirely possible, you could get a gift list from the loved one, go shopping, and then spend time with that person getting the gifts wrapped for giving.

Gift Giving and a Caretaker

Don’t forget a family member that is primary caretaker for a loved one with Alzheimer’s. In the majority of cases, the person proving primary care to an individual with Alzheimer’s disease is a family member, usually a spouse or adult child. 

Ideal gifts for a caretaker include getting respite assistance for that person (as was discussed earlier in this article.) More traditional gifts are also nice ideas as well. 

In the final analysis, with some thoughtful modifications of the type discussed in this article, seasonal holidays can be joyfully celebrated when a loved one has Alzheimer’s disease. Ultimately, a candid recognition of what is and is not possible with a Alzheimer’s patient in the family permits the creation of a holiday celebration that can prove positively memorable for all involved.