The holidays are exciting, just bursting with festivities: Lights, colors, new furniture, visitors and parties. However, for the Alzheimer’s patient this time period might be overwhelming, even frightening. He or she might feel overly stimulated by all the activities, new decorations, rearranged furniture and visitors. Many Alzheimer’s patients tend to feel agitated and disoriented by shifts in routine. Because of the festive changes to the house, the landscape seems unfamiliar. Too much commotion is hard for anyone to deal with, especially difficult for the loved one with Alzheimer’s. Also, many caregivers try to be perfect, even God-like. They are taking care of the loved one and orchestrating a celebration at the same time. As a result, caregivers become stressed, even ill. Now, where does that leave the loved one with Alzheimer’s when the caregiver is nervous? Here are seven coping tools to make the holiday brighter for both caregiver and loved one.
- Do not invite too many people to your home at once. Large noisy groups are overwhelming to the Alzheimer’s patient and to the caregiver. Provide your loved one with a quiet retreat – a room to relax in. Don’t drag him or her to different places. Minimize those visits by selecting the gathering that is most appropriate and familiar. Bring along a bag of personal necessities and toiletries, and a familiar game, photo, or music CD to soothe the soul.
- If children are playing video games, TV or loud music, make sure they have a separate area—away from the adults because the Alzheimer’s patient is likely to be frightened or agitated. Try to lower the volume anyway—a good idea for any adult party.
- Try not to rearrange furniture. Don’t interfere with the Alzheimer’s patient’s walking area because this will lead to injuries.
- As a caregiver, express yourself and ask for help! Don’t make a party alone. Ask other relatives for help. Otherwise you will feel depleted and will not be paying attention to the Alzheimer’s loved one. When a caregiver is agitated, the loved one is also. Emotions are easily transferred. When a caregiver is engrossed in entertaining others, the Alzheimer’s loved one, might easily slip out of the house undetected, get hurt by a decoration with sharp edges, or burned by a candle. Resist the impulse to do it all and please everyone. Remember the old song, “Respect Yourself.”
- Exercise during this holiday season—the two of you. Exercise will cut down on stress, depression and keep the immune system humming.
- As a caregiver, if you want to visit or participate in a party on your own for a good part of the day, get a sitter. You are entitled to your own life; have some fun! You will feel refreshed.
- Take Kodak moments in your heart of this holiday season with your loved one. It may not be what it used to be, but then nothing is. Appreciate the deeper, visceral link. Feel the love that might not be verbalized, the eternal connection.
Debbie Mandel, MA is the author of Turn On Your Inner Light: Fitness for Body, Mind and Soul, a stress-reduction specialist, motivational speaker, a personal trainer and mind/body lecturer at Southampton College. She is the host of the weekly Turn On Your Inner Light Show on WLIE 540AM in New York City , produces a weekly wellness newsletter, and has been featured on radio/ TV and print media. To learn more visit: www.turnonyourinnerlight.com