Making the Most of the Holidays

How can you enjoy the holidays without losing your mind--even if your loved one has dementia or Alzheimer's disease? Life Care Planning Law Firms have plenty of experience in this area. Try these tips to thrive during the most joyous time of the year.

Maintain routines wherever possible. “When you’re caring for a person with dementia, routines are important,” said Rachel Kabb-Effron, a Certified Elder Law Attorney and founder of Kabb Law Firm, a Life Care Planning Law firm in Beachwood, Ohio. “The holidays can throw those routines into chaos. The more you can do to stick to already-established schedules, the better.”

Keep the season short. If the holiday season feels endless to you, imagine how must it feel to the person with dementia. “Your best bet is to keep the holiday contained,” said Carolyn Lechner, who joined Kabb Law as an elder care coordinator in 2015. “Keep festivities to a week or less.”

Manage your expectations. If your elderly mother comes to your house for Christmas dinner at noon and asks to leave at 1 pm, will that ruin the holiday for you? “Though it’s tempting to apply your own expectations to a loved one, it’s important to remember that the holiday is just another day,” Carolyn advised. “If things go wrong, don’t take it personally.”

Be aware of timing. Plan holiday festivities at times when elderly loved ones will be at their best. “It may make more sense to have Thanksgiving dinner in the afternoon or to schedule a separate meal,” said Carolyn, who noted that you always have the option set your own celebration times. “Your elderly mother with Alzheimer’s disease probably won’t realize that the Times Square YouTube video she’s watching at a party you’re having at 1 pm on December 27th was filmed last year. The important thing is that she’s wearing a party hat and throwing confetti.”
 
Plan activities with memories in mind. There are so many things you can do. “Ask elderly loved ones to talk about what the holidays were like when they were young,” suggested Carolyn.  “Gather around the piano and sing Christmas carols. Page through family photo albums and reminisce. Listen to classic holiday songs and watch favorite movies. Ask family members to bring their favorite recipes. Bake and decorate holiday cookies together. You’re creating cherished traditions for the whole family.”

Reframe the gift giving process. When buying for a person with dementia, steer clear of traditional gifts. Focus instead on practical items that will make life easier for both the dementia patient and his or her caregivers. And don’t forget that love ones with dementia will feel left out if they can’t give gifts. Before the holiday, take your loved one’s shopping and allow them to participate in the gift-wrapping process.

Step up your support. You're not the only one whose grandma will ruin the holiday. Now is the time to increase your support group meeting attendance.

Focus on the intangibles. The silver lining in the dementia cloud is that it can refocus families on the real meaning of the season. “You don't need big parties, lavish gifts, or elaborate dinners to get into the holiday spirit,” added Rachel. “A celebration can be as simple as a conversation over coffee and holiday cookies. It's about being together.”

Through it all, keep in mind that your kids are watching you interact with your elderly parents. Your actions will teach them that you’re respectful to people with dementia. And if the dementia patient ends up being you down the line, you’ll be in good hands.