Be gentle with yourself and your expectations around holidays, which are challenging for anyone, particularly those living with Alzheimer’s. Plan with care, enjoy your family and friends, and adjust the schedule to suit a person’s energy.
Here are some suggestions of ways to celebrate holidays:
1) Have a party early in the day, when energy is best.
People living with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, like many of us, need to conserve energy. Never mind the midnight traditions; if you gather at 10 a.m. or 2 p.m., you and your family member or friend will enjoy the event, skip the over-extended feelings, and get home at a reasonable hour.
2) Create a quiet room for 1:1 visits, and film the rest of the festivities to re-play for days, months, and years to come.
A person living with dementia can manage short, simple visits. Create this atmosphere for success. The happy, boisterous fun can happen in another part of the house. The best part: if you run a camera in both rooms, you have captured the joy of the party, and can selectively play back the event in smaller bursts to enjoy the fun at any time of the year. You can improve the mood on a Tuesday in March, or a Saturday afternoon in July. When you and the one you care for needs a lift, play this footage.
3) Leave a journal for family and friends to write memories of this gathering, or ones from the past, to read aloud any time you need a good story. Write something in the front cover to prompt these stories, like “I remember Mom making plum pudding; we’d rush to the table to get a taste! Tell your plum pudding story here…” or “What’s a friendly piece of advice Dad gave you over the years?” or “Share a story about a memorable holiday present or event. I know you’ve got one!…”
Holiday visitors may come once a year, but you can extend their presence by asking them to write thoughts, affirmations, and stories from childhood, college, or any part of life. It’s a gift that keeps on giving; it’s why we invented writing, so we can ‘go back’ and read it again for information or pleasure. Writing these stories down brings the past to the present, where it can be re-lived, now and in the future.
4) Set the clock to Midnight at 6 p.m. on New Year’s Day, sing, celebrate, and go home early!
I worked for a beautiful retirement community in Colorado. For holidays and special occasions, we decorated the glorious room which had high ceilings, grand wooden floors, and stained glass windows. It was a setting likened to a five star hotel. And on New Year’s Eve, we lowered the large sparkling crystalline ball-at 7 p.m. We toasted the New Year, sang “Auld Lang Syne,” kissed each other, and went home while we still had stamina to carry us there!
When it comes to holidays this year, consider this: notice, adjust, and explore the possibilities of having full celebrations a different way. Don’t give them up; change them up.
Tryn Rose Seley, Author of “15 Minutes of Fame: One Photo Does Wonders”