The holiday season is officially here. Christmas carols are playing everywhere and store sales flyers are slipping out of the morning paper at an alarming rate. Then there’s the traffic, only made worse by the perpetual confusion of motorists.
Stressed out yet? Feeling the pressure?
“The holiday season can make many seniors and their caregivers feel a bit sad, or even depressed,” said Dottie VanHorn, family caregiver specialist at Eastern Area Agency on Aging. “We all have a mental picture of how the holidays are supposed to be and can become depressed when it doesn’t happen.”
For families living with a dementia diagnosis, holidays are especially stressful. It’s often hard to accept that your traditional celebration will change as your loved one’s disease progresses.
Here are some tips that can help:
• Focus on the person as they are now, not how they were in the past.
• Simplify activities and rituals.
• Limit your loved one’s exposure to large gatherings, which can be frightening to a person with dementia.
• Many people with dementia enjoy listening to the music of the season.
• Keep decorations safe and simple. Avoid decorations that are dangerous, poisonous or pose a choking risk.
• Maintain the person’s routine to decrease the chance of overstimulation or confusion.
There is also the financial factor. We want to be generous to children, friends, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, but this can be hard when incomes are limited.
• Make a budget and stick to it. People love you, not what you can buy for them.
• Don’t go it alone. Let others contribute to the cost of the holiday meal and entertaining. Potluck can be fun, especially if everyone brings the recipe of the dish they made. Collect family recipes to share.
• If you have family photos, it is very inexpensive to reproduce them for other family members.
“As families grow and change and move away from home, some family traditions will change, so it’s important to find new ways to celebrate together,” VanHorn said. “Email and sharing pictures online can bring others home in spirit if not in fact.”
Carol Higgins Taylor is director of communications at Eastern Area Agency on Aging.