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The journey that caregivers are on when caring for someone with Alzheimer’s/dementia is full of mystery, self-doubt, and loneliness. This column offers a chance to reach out, seek new ideas, and by reading about the experiences of others, learn that you are never alone.

By Phyllis DeLaricheliere, MS

‘Tis the season to be Jolly! The holiday season is traditionally the time when we look forward to getting together with family. We all head to Grandma’s house, where what awaits us are the smells and sounds of holidays past and the gratefulness of another year together. But we all know that the holidays can also be a stressful time of year. Through the hustle and bustle, we need to be aware of those family members who are caring for someone with Dementia. They often feel overwhelmed, lonely, isolated, and depressed.

What can cause some of these feelings? The holidays bring with them traditions that provide continuity throughout the years from generation to generation—a sense of connection and belonging. Our loved ones with dementia no longer can recall these traditions, and this can cause a heightened sense of loss for our family members. Yet we need to remind our memory-impaired relatives that they can still participate, and that remembering the traditions for them is our privilege.

So how do we prepare for the holidays? As a caregiver of someone with dementia, what can you do to get ready for this season and approach it with love, joyful anticipation, and laughter? This is NOT a time for mourning, but a time to celebrate another year that we are blessed to have our loved one with us. So here are some tips to help us get ready:

  • Don’t compromise on the holiday because your loved one has dementia. Embrace the season as you should, and ask for help to make sure you can enjoy it too!
  • Plan ahead and make sure the family-gathering environment is set up for them to be successful. Have a quiet room available.
  • Have the family members wear nametags – decorate them! Make them fun; the grandkids will enjoy this, and it’s a respectful way to help someone be successful.
  • Gift shopping – this is an easy one because they just love gifts!
  • Music – this is always a positive way to engage our loved ones with dementia, and singing eases any and all stress. So have a holiday sing-along, play holiday music, or even watch a concert on TV.
  • Have photo albums out that will help family members and your loved one engage in meaningful conversation.
  • The kitchen is a magical place; the smells of the kitchen can trigger memories and provide holistic healing. Engage your loved one in the chores of preparing the dinner: stirring, setting a table, washing dishes, or passing out the plates. Respectful, meaningful engagement is important.
  • Make sure your loved ones with dementia have enough to eat, even if you feed them ahead of time and allow them to pick at dinner. Plenty of liquids are also important. We tend to overlook the obvious.
  • Finally, have YOURSELF a Merry Holiday! Ask your family for support to give you a respite, a day away to do something you would like to do. This is not selfish, but necessary. Give yourself permission to be YOU. You cannot help others if you do not take care of yourself.
  • It is my wish for all of you who are living with someone with dementia that you can celebrate the gift of life, bring the magic back into your lives, and enjoy the MOMENT.

For moments are what we have.

Happy Holidays!

About the Author: Phyllis A. DeLaricheliere, MS is a sought after speaker/educator and is getting ready to publish her book:  “Embracing the Journey: Knowing your Inner Hippie.”  Her passion for finding solutions to the dementia epidemic has turned into a crusade and she is humbled to be able to touch so many caregivers out there that she respects so much. To book her for a lecture or get on her pre-published waitlist for her book, email her at knowyourhippie@gmail.com


Reprinted from the December 2019 edition of the South Shore Senior News