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Six Holiday Planning Tips for Caregivers


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During the best of times, the holidays can be overwhelming.   But if you are a primary caregiver, you will be faced with even more demands on your time and energy.  Caring for a parent with dementia is a full-time responsibility that not only includes caring for your parent’s well-being, but also juggling your duties at work, maintaining your home, caring for children, and making time for your spouse and friends.

So how can you all enjoy the holidays?  Plan ahead.

If you are caring for an elderly parent with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, what should you consider and prepare for?

  1. Ask for Help. Often your relatives and siblings are more than willing to help but don’t know how.  Make a list of items that you need assistance with and ask for help.  Whether that is watching mom while you get some shopping done, asking them to make an extra dish to bring to a holiday meal, or driving your dad to a medical appointment.  Assisting with simple tasks can amount to a timesaver for you and be gratifying for them to spend time with your parent.
  2. Deck the Halls. Let the smell of fresh pine fill your home, brew hot chocolate, and pull out the holiday decorations and wrapping paper.  Decorating a tree, hanging lights, playing their favorite holiday music and displaying sentimental treasures is a great way to get into the spirit of the holidays and rekindle memories for you and your parent.  This is also an opportunity to involve them in the preparations and get their help with simple tasks—wrapping gifts, rolling out cookie dough, or hanging ornaments.
  3. Set Limits. It’s okay to say, “no.”  If you are tired and rundown, you risk getting sick and missing holiday festivities.   It’s okay to order a meal for a family dinner and not cook from scratch.  It’s fine to skip a party that is just too difficult to manage.  As a caregiver, give yourself a break if you need one.
  4. Prep for Event. If you are going to a relative’s home with your parent for a holiday event, plan ahead to determine what they might need. Your parent will be out of their routine, so make sure they rest during the day and are well hydrated.  Pack a bag with a spare change of clothing, extra sweater or jacket, comfort foods that they enjoy, and any medication they might need.
  5. Talk to the Host. You also may want to ask the host if there is a quiet spot that your parent can retreat to if they need to lay down or take a break from the noise and activity. When possible, talk to your family about holding events during the best time of day for your parent.  Many people living with dementia experience sundowning in the evening, so a daytime event might be more comfortable.
  6. Be Flexible. Everyone puts pressure on themselves to create the “perfect holiday.” But life is messy and doesn’t always go as planned, so try to be flexible.  If your parent is having a bad day, you may need to leave an event early or cancel plans.  Your friends and loved ones will understand.

For help planning a great holiday season with your loved one living with dementia, visit one of your local Aegis Living communities and speak to our caregiving experts.