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Steps to Create Happier Holidays For Seniors

Reducing stress for elders and their families during the holidays

Holidays are a stressful time for many, especially those with dementia and their families.  We take them out of their familiar surroundings, invite everyone over and ask them to be normal with the entire family.  How unfair!   Rethink your holiday tradition so it is more enjoyable for the person with dementia and less stressful for you and the family members.

Steps to consider:

1.  Discuss the upcoming holidays with your family members beforehand.  Agree on those traditions that must be retained and those that can be discontinued.

2. Make a list of those tasks which MUST be done and those that SHOULD be done.  Focus on the MUST be done list only.

3.  Have each family member prepare part of the meal rather than doing it all to yourself.  You may want to do it all but it will be less stressful if you have others involved. 

4.  People with dementia feel safest in their familiar surroundings.  If your loved one resides in a Memory Support community consider bringing them dinner and then staying while they enjoy it.  Short visits are always easier for everyone no matter what day it is. 

5.  If a large family gathering is planned designate family members to spend parts of that day with the loved one so they are not left alone.  The day will go much easier if there is someone next to them to provide cues as to who just came into the room, help them to the dinner table, etc.

6.  Make sure all family members understand the loved one's decline and adjust their expectations accordingly.  Inform your family members beforehand and remind them that a smile and hug are truly gifts to share.

What else would you suggest?

Nancy Carey, RN

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Linda S. Remensnyder, Au.D. November 15, 2011 at 12:49 PM
Hearing loss is an epidemic in those over 80 and those with dementia have problems decoding what they hear often in addition to hearing loss. Turn off any background noise such as a radio or television, sit close to the listener, and speak slowly and distinctly. There are inexpensive personal listening devices that can be used only under supervision that should help if the listener still seems to not hear.

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