Holiday gatherings present several challenges for those who are caring for a loved one. From the physical logistics and potential for behavioral challenges, to the practical dilemmas of meaningful gifts and menu ideas, the list of things to coordinate and execute are complicated by the need to plan for a successful way to incorporate your loved one into the celebration. As you begin to think about the Holidays, consider these questions as you plan:

  • What has my loved one’s level of participation in the holiday been in the distant past? What about in the more recent years prior to the changes in their physical and cognitive abilities?
  • How have the changes impacted their ability to participate?
  • What parts of their involvement are they still able to participate in? For example, the mother/grandmother who has been the “Hostess with the Mostest” at every Holiday in the past may not be able to continue as host, but how can she be included in the planning of this year’s event? Even if her ailities have become greatly impaired, she may benefit from conversation and looking through some magazines with Holiday ideas with you. Even if she forgets the conversation later, the conversation will likely be meaningful to her. AND, you might get a really great idea from her wisdom; you just need to draw it out.
  • If your loved one has progressed to the mid or late stages of Dementia, try to discern whether his or her participation in the gathering creates a positive experience for them or if it creates stress. Ask yourself hard questions such as “Who am I doing this for?”. Sometimes we really want yourger generations to benefit from interaction and the presence of their grandparents. That is a viable reason to say “Yes. I want my loved one at the event for a short period of time, or bring the gathering to them at their home at some point in the day. Be flexile. If you decide to include them in the larger event, pay close attention to their cues and make a new plan if you see that they are not coping well with the activity.
  • For gift ideas, think comfort, fond memories, and practical needs. There are numerous products available today to ease aches and pains, produce lovely fragrance and enhance our comfort. Likewise a gift that sparks a memory from days gone by through music, photos, or other novelty items can be great day brighteners well beyond the occasion on which the gift is given. And who doesn’t need a pair of new cozy socks or some lotion for dry itchy skin?

There are lots of great resources available for planning for the Holidays for caregivers. Check out these ideas from the following resources:

Most of all, remember that the holidays should be a time to celebrate family. Rethink your traditions to find ways to include your loved one in a way that creates new memories and moments of joy for everyone. There often comes a time when their level of participation is a visit from you before or after the event with a one to one conversation about the holiday, fond memories of years gone by or just a time of quiet reflection together.

Submitted by Janelle Johnson, Memory Care Specialist