110,000 Hoosiers are living with Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia. It is a progressive and fatal brain disease and the 6th leading cause of death.
Because the holidays are sometimes a time when families see each other for the first time in a while, it is also when loved ones often notice signs and symptoms for the first time.There are 10 signs to look out for. They include: memory loss that disrupts daily life, difficulty completing familiar tasks, confusion with time or place, and changes in mood and personality.
Some tips for the holidays include:
- Familiarize others with the situation. If the person with dementia has trouble following conversation or tends to repeat things, ask guests to be patient, avoid interrupting or correcting, and give the person time to finish thoughts.
- Adjust expectations. The stress of caregiving responsibilities layered with holiday traditions can take a toll. Be good to yourself and give yourself permission to do only what you can reasonably manage.
- Build on past traditions and memories. Focus on activities that are meaningful to the person with dementia, such as singing old holiday songs, watching favorite holiday movies, or looking through old photo albums.
- Maintain a normal routine. This will help keep the holidays from becoming disruptive or confusing. Plan time for breaks and rest.
- Adapt gift giving. Diminishing capacity may make some gifts unusable or even dangerous to a person with dementia. Some useful ideas include: an identification bracelet (available through MedicAlert + Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return), comfortable clothing, favorite foods and photo albums.
- Don’t feel pressure to take the person out of a care facility. A holiday is still a holiday no matter where it is celebrated. Consider joining your loved one in any facility-planned holiday activities. Bring a favorite holiday food to share. Sing holiday songs and ask if other residents can join in. Read a favorite holiday story or poem out loud.
The Alzheimer’s Association Greater Indiana Chapter offers a free helpline at 800.272.3900 that is staffed with specially-trained agents, available 24/7 – even on holidays. Go to alz.org/Indiana for the full list.