Tips for those coping with Alzheimer’s during the holidays

Staff Report

For most families, the holiday season is a time for gathering, sharing, laughter and memories. However, for those affected by Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia, the season can be very stressful for them — and their caregivers. Here are some tips to keep the holidays a good time for everyone.

The holidays are full of emotions, so it can help to let guests know what to expect before they arrive. Following are some tips, courtesy of

If the person is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, relatives and friends might not notice any changes. But the person with dementia may have trouble following conversation or tend to repeat him- or herself. Family can help with communication by being patient, not interrupting or correcting, and giving the person time to finish his or her thoughts.

If the person is in the middle or late stages of Alzheimer’s, there may be significant changes in cognitive abilities since the last time an out-of-town friend or relative has visited. These changes can be hard to accept. Make sure visitors understand that changes in behavior and memory are caused by the disease and not the person.

How to involve the person with dementia in holiday activities:

1. Build on past traditions and memories.

2. Focus on activities that are meaningful to the person with dementia. Your family member may find comfort in singing old holiday songs or looking through old photo albums.

3. Involve the person in holiday preparation.

4. As the person’s abilities allow, invite him or her to help you prepare food, wrap packages, help decorate or set the table. This could be as simple as having the person measure an ingredient or hand decorations to you as you put them up. (Be careful with decoration choices. Blinking lights may confuse or scare a person with dementia, and decorations that look like food could be mistaken as edible.)

5. Maintain a normal routine. Sticking to the person’s normal routine will help keep the holidays from becoming disruptive or confusing. Plan time for breaks and rest.

Know you’re not in it alone. The Alzheimer’s Association 24-hour Helpline, 800-272-3900, is your holiday lifeline for advice, information or just a listening ear. Also, visit for more holiday tips.

The Alzheimer’s Association — Central Illinois Chapter is a donor-supported, not-for-profit health organization serving 20 counties in Illinois. For additional information or for help, visit the website at or call 800-272-3900.

From the Dec. 12-18, 2012, issue

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