How caregivers can best handle Christmas with a loved one who has Dementia
The Christmas season is one filled with fun and excitement but there's also some stressful moments, especially for caregivers looking out for a loved one with dementia.
Many long standing traditions will be able to continue this year, but some may have to be altered or eliminated to make this Christmas happy for everyone...after-all it is the season of giving...giving of yourself for the happiness of others.
Ken Zaentz, President and CEO of Alzheimer's New Jersey says it's about making things better for that loved one with dementia.
"Families obviously want their loved one to be apart of the holiday celebration and in many ways they can be but the celebration can't necessarily be the way it always was," Zaentz said. "I think families need to think about adjusting expectations and doing things differently to better meet the needs of the person with dementia."
Zaentz says it's also important to make the person with dementia as much apart of the Christmas traditions as possible and knowing their limitations.
"Maybe the person with the disease can't help decorate the entire tree anymore but maybe they can put one or two things on the tree," Zaentz said.
Even though it may be different, he says you can still build up the emotional connection with them in the spirit of Christmas.
If you typically go out for dinner, try going out a little earlier than normal.
"A restaurant might be extremely busy and that business and all of the noise becomes not only distracting for the person who has dementia but it becomes agitating for them," Zaentz said.
If you usually prefer to dine at home for Christmas, he suggests having the meal in stages so everyone's not crowding in the room at the same time.
You will still be able to carry on many of the traditions of the past, but Zaentz suggests forming new ones where deemed fit so everyone can enjoy the Christmas season.
Your decorating of the tree, baking Christmas goodies or having big get together's during the holiday season or on Christmas are fine but they may need some altering.
Safety is key as well especially if you fragrance the air with candles.
"You have to be careful that the person with Dementia understands that this is a lit candle and there's no hazards that you wouldn't have thought of in the past but have to think about now," Zaentz said.
If there's a family party going on, he suggests having someone keep an eye on their loved one with Dementia to make sure that they're comfortable in their surroundings.
In terms of heading to mass on Christmas eve or on Christmas morning, the loved one with dementia may not be at a point any longer where they could physically or emotionally handle going to church, in which case you could ask a priest or deacon to bring communion to your loved one so they could still receive the Holy Eucharist.
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