The holidays are stressful — especially for people with dementia.
While a person with dementia might have more family time during the holidays, routine disruptions are inevitable. These disruptions can cause confusion and impact sleep and well-being — increasing stress for both caregivers and their loved ones.
Here are some tips for alleviating stress and keeping cognition on-track for your loved one this holiday season, from some of the Fairfax County Health Department’s dementia care experts.
- Keep a go-to list of in-home activities:
Caregivers are super busy and worry about keeping their loved one engaged at home. Have a go-to list of simple activities that boost cognition and promote physical activity. Tasks as simple as clipping coupons, raking leaves and setting the table go a long way in improving engagement for adults with dementia.— Isabel Castillejo, Certified Recreation Therapist, Herndon Adult Day Health Care Center
- Keep it cheerful:
People with dementia reflect the spirit around them. Smiles, songs and lots of positive energy not only keep the mood happy — they help your loved one stay engaged.— Martha Armstrong, Certified Recreation Therapist, Lincolnia Adult Day Health Care Center
- Keep it healthy:
While you can expect some mood changes with a disrupted holiday schedule, anything that lasts longer than a day could be an indicator of a health issue for people with dementia. Be sure to monitor moods that seem out of the ordinary, and contact your loved one’s doctor with any concerns.— Max Powell, Registered Nurse, Lewinsville Adult Day Health Care Center
- Relish in traditions:
Sing, bring out old photographs, and enjoy family traditions. Not only are these simple and fun activities to do together, but relishing in nostalgia just might ignite a memory thread for your loved one.— Ingrid Parkhurst, Center Nurse Coordinator, Mount Vernon Adult Day Health Care Center
A healthy and fun holiday season is what we all strive to achieve. But caregivers need not place too much pressure on themselves to perfectly curate everything. A warm drink, twinkling lights and comforting music are universal in creating a calm holiday atmosphere — for both the dementia sufferer and their caregiver.