Caring for someone living with dementia over the holidays

Throughout December, Route 65 is running a “Gift of Time” campaign, which invites the public to participate in giving “the gift of time” this month in support of seniors who are either living alone, or in a care home. As part of “Gift of Time,” Route 65 is also running a series on the holidays, seniors’ care and family caregiving. For this post we spoke with the Alzheimer Society of B.C. about caring for someone living with dementia over the holidays.

Living with dementia often means that traditions must be adapted to avoid stress for both the person living with dementia and their caregiver. The Society has a number of tips to help support families as they plan ahead to help ensure everyone enjoys the holidays. Michele McCabe, Senior Manager, Provincial Programs & Services for the Alzheimer Society of B.C. suggests families start by focusing on a few traditions that will be the most meaningful to everyone, while being the least disruptive for the person living with dementia.

“As the caregiver you will likely know what will work the best for the person living with dementia,” says McCabe. “Speak to other family members in advance to let them know what to expect, and what might be challenging. Whenever possible, ask the person living with dementia how they would like to be involved and what is most important to them.”

Short visits with small groups are often best for people living with dementia. If the person is living in a care home, try arranging a visit there. Large groups or significant changes in routine can be difficult. As much as possible, try to keep patterns, like mealtimes and bedtime, consistent. If this is outside of your control, try to make sure that there is a quiet space that the person living with dementia can rest in, should things become overwhelming.

Above all else, McCabe encourages caregivers to take care of themselves over the holiday season.

“The holidays can be stressful and busy at the best of times, but it can be even more so for family caregivers,” McCabe says. “A good support system and self-care plan are helpful tools as you adjust to new holiday traditions and manage complicated emotions. Things may not go exactly as planned – it’s the ability to move past those things that will make the holiday happier for all.”

Read more from the Alzheimer Society of B.C. in their tips on celebrating the holidays handout.

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