Celebrating Special Occasions With a Loved One That Has Alzheimer’s
When a loved one has Alzheimer’s, holidays or birthdays require more mindful preparation, making it challenging to engage in special occasions the way you once did. You may be torn between sticking to your usual holiday traditions or forfeiting the celebrations altogether. While things may look different, with careful planning and consideration it is possible to celebrate special occasions in an enjoyable way while remaining compassionate toward your loved one with Alzheimer’s care needs.
Small, Meaningful Celebrations
Throughout our lives, we develop family traditions. While some go all out on Christmas, others enjoy planning extravagant birthdays. With Alzheimer’s, your loved one may not recognize the significance of a specific day or event, and exposing them to a large celebration may evoke stress or confusion. Modifying special occasions to be small but meaningful is an effective way to keep your loved one feeling fulfilled.
For example, if your mother has Alzheimer’s but used to love celebrating her birthday, you may still do so with a loving card or flowers given to her while surrounded by immediate family. While she may be unable to identify why she’s being celebrated, it will make her feel special and add joy to her life without overwhelming her.
Understand Your Loved One’s Limitations
Alzheimer’s care begins with understanding your loved one’s limitations. Depending on how advanced their memory loss has become, certain adjustments must be made to avoid causing them distress. Before planning a special occasion, consulting with your loved one’s doctor, caregiver, or other family members is beneficial to determine what activities and environments will be comfortable for them. The goal of moving forward with celebrations is to bring them joy and brighten their day. That means it’s essential to consider which triggers may bring confusion, agitation, or other forms of discomfort.
Prioritize Familiar Elements
When planning a special occasion with a loved one with Alzheimer’s, consider including familiar elements and activities in your festivities. If your loved one has a favorite dish, a particular type of music they enjoy, or an activity they’ve always looked forward to around the holidays, such as baking, include it in your day. This helps them feel at ease and gives you a special way to connect with your loved one while holding onto a sense of tradition.
Have your loved one participate in preparations throughout the holiday or celebration when possible. Ask them to assist with tasks that align with their cognitive abilities. This may include small tasks like rolling dough, setting the table, etc. This will encourage a sense of inclusion and usefulness, which can be especially important for those navigating Alzheimer’s disease.
Choose the Right Environment
If your former special occasions were enjoyed at a restaurant or different family members’ homes each year, it might need to be slightly different this year. It’s important to consider the best environment for your loved one with Alzheimer’s. A crowded or loud setting that they are not used to may be overwhelming and confusing to them. A quiet, familiar setting, such as their home or the home of their most frequently visited relative, surrounded by a small group of close family members, is more relaxing and allows them to feel comfortable.
Provide Guidance to Your Loved One
Alzheimer’s may prohibit your loved one from remembering the significance of the special occasion, which means they likely will not have the same reaction to cards or gifts as they once did. It can be beneficial to gently guide them through the day by displaying positive reactions and helping them understand the context of the situation.
For instance, if you are celebrating a holiday that involves your loved one receiving a card, you can help them read and understand the card in a lively and encouraging manner to show them that this is a happy moment and that it revolves around them. Additionally, remember that despite your best efforts, they may not understand, and it’s important not to push the matter.
Have Patience When Communicating
Communication abilities are often altered by Alzheimer’s, which means it will be important to practice patient communication when celebrating an event with your loved one. Even though it may be an exciting day, it’s essential to keep the pace calm, speak slowly and clearly, and use simple language and visual cues when necessary to facilitate communication.
Patience is essential, as your loved one may need more pauses and breaks throughout the day to avoid becoming overstimulated. It’s common for a person with Alzheimer’s to experience difficulty expressing themselves, so offer additional support while allowing them to feel dignified and respected.
Prepare Your Guests
If you are hosting a gathering to celebrate a special occasion, it’s important to communicate with your guests about your loved one’s condition. This may include reminding your guests that your loved one may not be able to identify or remember when something is acceptable or expected and to have patience and compassion.
Depending on the stage of your loved one’s Alzheimer’s, you may encourage guests to introduce themselves to your loved one if it’s been a while since the last time they saw each other.
Observe Signs of Discomfort
Before the day of your planned celebrations, take note of your loved one’s behaviors that indicate they are feeling stressed or tired. This will help you better identify signs of discomfort on the day of the special occasion, allowing you to have a proactive plan to provide relief and support for your loved one.
Focus on What’s Important
Even if this special occasion does not enable your loved one to participate like they once did, it’s essential to focus on what matters, which is the time spent and the memories made together. Traditions add to a holiday, but the true value lies in the quality time you spend with the people you love most.
Special occasions with your loved one with Alzheimer’s may have challenging moments, but it’s important to look past those incidents and recognize the moments of joy, whether through a heartfelt conversation, meaningful gesture, or simply just seeing your loved one enjoying themselves.
Ask for Support
Navigating your family’s new routine can be difficult. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed or stressed, and it’s okay to need extra help or support. You may choose to ask other family members to assist in preparations and holiday-related tasks while you devote your attention to your loved one, or you may speak with your loved one’s caregiver to have them join in on the celebrations to provide additional help.
Alzheimer’s Care With Placita In Home Care
If you’re arranging a celebration for a special occasion, Placita In Home Care is here to facilitate your duties as a caregiver. Our compassionate Alzheimer’s care professionals can assist you with caring for your loved one on holidays, or any other day of the year, providing dignified and respectful caregiving services that enhance your loved one’s quality of life while offering support to your family. Contact Placita In Home Care today to learn about our Alzheimer’s care services.