The Holidays with Those Who have Alzheimer’s

As holidays approach, we start to wonder what do we do with our loved one who has Alzheimer’s.

This was always a big issue with my mom as her disease progressed. Do we invite them to dinner? Do we have them sit at the table for a formal dinner? We are no doubt nervous about the potential unpredictable behavior of someone who suffers from the terrible disease. Will the extra people overstimulate them?

9 Tips to Make Your Holiday with Alzheimer’s More Manageable:

  1. Invite your parent and tell them how excited you are to have them there. Even if they are in the late stages of the disease, the positive affirmation makes them feel as ease.
  2. Keep them involved. I used to have my mom peel a banana or put chips in a bowl. These simple tasks will relieve the anxiety of the disease. You will probably have to redirect every few minutes and give a new task, make them simple.
  3. Use this time to reminisce about favorite Thanksgiving or Christmas holidays. Talk about the present they gave you, a food they made, a funny event that happened. We would do this even as my mom couldn’t speak anymore. My mom so loved these moments.
  4. Assign different people to be with your parent. Again, depending upon the level of cognitive ability, there may be constant redirection. This can be exhausting for just one person.
  5. Music does wonderful things for people with Alzheimer’s. Try to think about music your family played, songs you sang or piano music you played. Let the music help you comfort them.
  6. Take a timeout. Holidays are non- stop busy. The typical person with Alzheimer’s is not used to six hour dinners. Think about a place where the person can lie down and nap.
  7. Try to have your dinner before dark. We typically would eat Thanksgiving around 4pm just as it started to get dark. But as my mom’s Alzheimer’s progressed she got very agitated when it got dark and wanted to go home. We moved the dinner up to 1pm and took her home before dark.
  8. Simple comforts will help minimize agitation. We always had a faux fur blanket for mom, warm slippers and comfy clothes. We wanted mom to be as comfortable as possible while eating. Plus you need extra clothing as Holiday fixings can be messy.
  9. Be careful about amounts and kinds of food mom eats. If they haven’t had their favorite food for a while, their digestion may not be used to treats they ate before the disease. Their favorite food that they haven’t eaten for a couple years could have negative affect. Also be aware that as the disease progresses people have trouble swallowing. Small bites of food is a must to avoid choking.

After reading the above you may say, is it worth it? The answer is yes. Think about how many dinners your mom or dad made possible for you. This disease robs people of many things, family moments should not be one of them.


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