This holiday season give yourself the GIFT of making the most of celebrating with your loved one with dementia.

G– Give your visitors the opportunity to spend time with your loved one by having an assigned “buddy” to guide your family member during a celebration. This is comforting, especially if the buddy uses a soft voice and a calming presence.  Rotating the buddy gives all the family members the chance to interact in a special way with your loved one, reminiscing about times past and creating new experiences together. One family recently told us how the grandchildren filled this role beautifully, as each spent time one on one talking with their loved one about exciting things going on in their lives.

I – Integrate periods of rest and relaxation for your loved one.  Being overly tired can heighten  agitation, confusion and forgetfulness.  Planning downtime during the day, including when many visitors are around, is essential.  Find a quiet place away from the gathering, and if desired, have someone sit with them peacefully. What a gift to both the patient and the caregiver – blissful quiet and time for reflection.

F – Find balance between enjoying the activities of the season while creating an environment conducive to a person with memory issues.  Be strategic – which party invitations are most important?  How many activities can you realistically plan for any given day? Who will be there to help with navigating your loved one through the day – can you discuss the plan with them ahead of the event?  Is the environment appropriate for your loved one– is it loud? Is it handicap accessible?  Are there steps to navigate? Does the activity require moving to more than one location? Will alcohol be present?  Be sure to monitor amounts and consider abstinence or watered down drinks if medically appropriate.  Hydration is vitally important as alcohol contributes to dehydration. Think through the pros and cons of each activity and plan ahead to minimize stress for both you and your loved one.

T – Take time to remember what is most important during the holiday season – being present with those you love.  This time of year can be a stark reminder of all that has changed, which can bring about feelings of sadness and loss.  We each have our own way of coping during times such as these.  Think about how you best handle these emotions and be ready to put those strategies into action if the holidays get you down.  Try to refocus on the present.  The present has gifts of its own.

The Memory Center Charlotte staff is reminded daily of what a gift each of you is to your family member with memory issues.  Seeing your courage, tenacity, and love for others is a gift to us as we witness the strength of the human spirit. May your holiday be a special time of celebration filled with the GIFT of love from  family and friends.