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Alzheimer’s and the Holidays, tips for people with Alzheimer’s and other Dementias

Columbia, SC – The holiday season can be challenging when a loved one is living with Alzheimer’s or other dementia. With a little planning, celebrations with family and friends can still be happy, memorable occasions.

The Alzheimer’s Association South Carolina Chapter has some easy tips to help ensure a safe and smooth holiday with a person living with dementia.

Check in with the person with dementia. In the early stage, a person with Alzheimer’s may experience minor changes. Some may be less comfortable socializing while others may enjoy seeing family and friends. Plan the holidays together, focusing on the things that bring happiness, not stress.

Familiarize others with the situation. It can help to let guests know what to expect before they arrive. In the early stages of Alzheimer's, visitors might not notice any changes. But the person with dementia may have trouble following conversations, repeat themselves, or, in the case of middle or late stages of Alzheimer's, show significant changes in cognitive abilities. These changes can be hard to accept. Make sure visitors understand the changes are a symptom of the disease, not the person.

Adjust expectations. The stress of caregiving responsibilities layered with holiday traditions can take a toll. No one should expect caregivers to maintain every holiday tradition or event. Make sure that everyone understands the caregiving situation and has realistic expectations. Consider breaking large gatherings up into smaller visits of two or three people at a time to keep the person with Alzheimer's and caregivers from getting overtired.

Involve the person with dementia. Focus on activities that are meaningful to the person with dementia. Involve the person in holiday preparation, as the person's abilities allow. Invite them to help you prepare food, wrap packages, help decorate or set the table. But be sure to maintain a normal routine to keep the holidays from becoming disruptive or confusing.

Adapt gift giving. If someone asks for gift ideas, suggest items the person with dementia needs or can easily enjoy. Ideas include: an identification bracelet (available through MedicAlert®+ Alzheimer's Association Safe Return®), comfortable clothing, favorite foods and photo albums.

Don’t forget about gifts for the caregiver as well. Friends or family can provide caregivers with the gift of self-care. A gift certificate or something that will help caregivers take care of themselves is important. Other gifts could be a cleaning service or an offer to provide respite care.

Visit www.alz.org/sc for additional ideas on how to prepare for the holidays. The Alzheimer's Association 24/7 Helpline is always available at 800.272.3900 for reliable information and support.

The Alzheimer’s Association is the leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer care, support and research. Their mission is to eliminate Alzheimer’s disease through the advancement of research; to provide and enhance care and support for all affected; and to reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health. Their vision is a world without Alzheimer’s. Visit alz.org® or call 800.272.3900.

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