The holidays can be overwhelming at the best of times, but when your spouse has dementia, they can be especially stressful.
“The holidays are a time when there tends to be a lot of people around,” says Joy Birch, Chief Operating Officer of Highview Residences. “We have a lot more activities happening, we definitely have a lot more fancy lights, and it just tends to be a time when there are greater expectations on everyone, but particularly on that person who has dementia.”
Joy suggests modifying your plans as a family to make it easier for the person with dementia, as well as yourself, even if it means changing up some time-honoured traditions.
Big family gatherings may now be too much for your spouse to handle. Consider scaling things down. Instead of dinner, have small numbers of people visit for lunch or mid-morning coffee with treats. (People with dementia are often at their best in the morning and mid-day.) Consider wearing name tags or placing cards in front of plates. See whether one of your visitors is willing to act as your spouse’s buddy during the visit. That will give you more of a chance to socialize with others.
Decorations and music
Bright lights and holiday music may overload your spouse’s senses. Turn off some of the lights and turn down the music. Reposition or remove any decorations that could be trip hazards.
Manage your family’s expectations
Encourage your family to do go with the flow. If your spouse says something that’s incorrect or repetitive, ask them to let it go. Warn them that a visit may have to be cut short if your spouse gets tired. But let them know that even if your spouse may seem distracted or confused at times, it’s wonderful that they’re visiting.