Families with Alzheimer’s patients must evaluate the impact the holidays can potentially have on their loved ones. Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease and isn’t predictable in its progression. It doesn’t affect any two patients the same way and doesn’t present follow the same timeline for entering the next phase. That’s why it’s important to assess where in the timeline a patient exists when making plans for Alzheimer’s and the holidays.
Preparing family and friends
Caregivers — whether family or professional — must prepare those attending holiday functions for what to expect. It’s important to discuss the patient’s current condition with their doctor to determine what precautions and preparations should be taken ahead of the event.
This consultation should yield vital information determining what the family can expect in terms of behavior and any limitations on the patient’s part for participating in the celebrations. This will determine whether a professional caregiver will be needed to assist with the patient during the holiday festivities.
Approaching the holiday meal with Alzheimer’s patients
The family should discuss the current dietary needs of the patient. If they have progressed to later stages of the disease, they could face some difficulties eating. They may require simpler foods that won’t present them with possible choking hazards.
Additionally, advanced stages of the disease will cause the patient to present with the mental and emotional capacity of earlier stages in their life. If they have regressed to stages of childhood, it may be more beneficial to provide them with comfort foods putting them in a calmer state.
Holiday decor and their effects on Alzheimer’s patients
At earlier stages of the disease, it is beneficial for decorations to include images that stimulate warm and comforting memories of holidays past. Using decorations that conjure memories from happier times such as photographs or keepsakes are a good choice. While these decorations cannot be guaranteed to stimulate the patient’s memory, they can help make the holidays more enjoyable for the rest of the family and in turn, the Alzheimer’s patient.
Nursing homes and retirement communities should also take similar precautions when it comes to decorating choices. This is best left to a commercial holiday décor contractor that has experience is providing holiday decorations to large commercial facilities. They will be able to work with resident managers to determine a holiday theme appropriate to residents of all degrees of health that fits within the organizations budget. A commercial holiday design services company will also respect the religious or secular standards of the facility.
However, when creating these holiday decorations, the family shouldn’t have unrealistic expectations. If the Alzheimer’s patient is unable to remember a photograph or Christmas ornament, the family should understand. Alzheimer’s patients may exhibit signs of irritability and experience sudden mood changes. It’s important to be aware of these changes and be prepared for the patient acting out.
Gift ideas for Alzheimer’s patients
When addressing Alzheimer’s and the holidays, the family should again consider the phase of the patient’s progression when choosing presents. For example, if the patient has reached a later stage of the disease, items such as toys that are easy to handle make better gifts. Nursing homes often provide these objects to maintain the patient’s motor skills. They can also provide valuable exercise needed to curtail muscle atrophy.
Families must follow special guidelines when planning a holiday get together involving a loved one with Alzheimer’s. The needs of the patient must be addressed in order to mitigate potential risks. By taking a little time up front to make preparations the holidays can be an enjoyable time for the Alzheimer’s patient and family alike.