The Holidays With Alzheimer’s: Expert Tips for a Pleasant Season

December 4th, 2015 | Posted by admin in Uncategorized

While the holidays generally signify a time of joy and togetherness for families, it can be difficult for those living with dementia or Alzheimer’s. Recently Rita Altman, SVP of memory care and program services at Sunrise Senior Living, sat down with Jennifer Keiper from the WLS-AM show Connected to Chicago to discuss ways to include loved ones with memory loss in the holiday festivities, as well as warning signs you should look for when spending time with family members you may not see frequently.Five ways to include loved ones with memory loss in your holiday events

Rita acknowledged that it may be bittersweet for those families who want to include their loved one with memory loss in the family gatherings, but know that they may not recognize every guest and that the atmosphere may feel overwhelming for them. She detailed five ways to include your loved one suffering from dementia or memory loss in holiday events:

  1. Think about the person: For example, if your family member always enjoyed a gregarious atmosphere with lots of people, music and food, continue to include them as you go down that path. What they used to love still may be enjoyable to them, so think about what makes them happy.
  2. Stay aware: However, if you notice your loved one is feeling overwhelmed (conflicting sound levels are one common catalyst for this) and feeling more confused or anxious, tune into that. Keep your finger on the pulse of their emotional state, and find a quieter room or a place off to the side of the crowd where they can engage more by observing than by being directly involved.
  3. Continue to give them meaning and purpose: While their responsibilities may not be as large as they once were, be sure to include your loved one in holiday activities as much as possible. They should still feel like part of the family despite having a smaller role.
  4. Look to them for advice: Ask their opinion on things and for suggestions when making plans or doing event preparations. If they are capable of contributing, they will let you know.

  5. Prepare children so they can make the most out of their interactions: Depending on their age, it may be beneficial to educate children about what to expect from their loved one who is suffering from memory loss by describing the changes that happen in the brain and explaining that their grandmother or grandfather may not remember their name. Remind children not to focus on the things that are changing, but instead to concentrate on all the things that still remain - activities they can enjoy together, such as music, reading a book, looking at photos or decorating a tree.

How to detect signs of memory loss

For some of us, the holiday season is also an opportunity to come face-to-face with loved ones whom we may not often see. Many times, interactions with family members who do not live nearby are confined to phone calls that cover the same topics, meaning major memory loss warning signs may be less evident because of the routine nature of the conversation. Rita identified some warning signs to look for if you suspect memory loss in your loved one during this holiday season, including:

  • They seem more confused
  • There is less of a concern with their external appearance
  • Their home is not as tidy as it used to be
  • The refrigerator is not well stocked
  • The same stories are repeated again and again
  • Items are misplaced without knowledge of how to retrieve them

If these signs are detected, consider reaching out to a primary care physician for an evaluation.

Creating pleasant days

Particularly around the holidays, Rita stressed the importance of living moment to moment with your loved ones suffering from memory loss. At Sunrise, we understand the importance of the residual feeling that endures when someone is having a good day, and we focus on creating pleasant days by using a resident-centered approach to care and through our Life Enrichment Managers, who are dedicated to involving residents with memory loss in daily activities that help them feel valued and give them a sense of purpose.

Additionally, Rita recalled the story of one memory loss patient who lost her ability to speak, but whose words came back through music. With the right type of environment and the right approach, Rita stressed that there can be happiness and joy despite the loss of memory. At Sunrise, we provide daily activities carefully designed to enrich the mind, body and spirit

To hear more of Rita’s discussion with Jennifer Keiper, including her explanation of the Validation Method, tips on how to reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s, and a conversation about the latest medical research on the topic of dementia and Alzheimer’s, listen to the full interview below:

For more Alzheimer’s or memory care tips, visit the Sunrise Senior Living website. And check out more articles from Rita Altman about memory care, caregiving and finding the right support here.
Source: Sunrise Senior Living

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