From HOLIDAZE to HOLIYEAS! 5 Tips for Caregivers

The holiday season can be an overwhelming time for most, especially if you are suffering from Alzheimer’s or Dementia.  Caring for a loved one who is living with these conditions can be especially difficult at this time.  Your patience is often at its lowest point, time is always precious trying to get everything done and your sense of humour is as cold as the coffee sitting on the counter that you poured yourself this morning.  It’s easy to say stop. Take a deep breath. Now give yourself 5 minutes to clear your head and regain your sanity.  However, 5 quick minutes isn’t going to change anything.

The season is called “the holidays” for a reason.  You are supposed to relax, enjoy friends, family,  food and savour the days you have off.  If you have the added responsibility of caring for your loved one who suffers from Alzheimer’s or Dementia, you really need to ejoy this time yourself and make it a holiyea instead of a holidaze for both you and your loved one.  You can achieve this by trying to plan ahead. These next 5 tips should help ensure your holiday happiness and that of your loved one who needs your time and attention at this busy time.


  1. Keep Their Routine

As difficult as we all know it is during the holidays, try and keep the same daily routine for your loved one.  We all know how big a part routine plays in the life of an Alzheimer or Dementia patient.  With so much changing going on – decorations going up, schedules for those around them (working different days/shifts, shopping later at the mall), different visitors; all of these changes affect a person.   Consistency of their daily routine is a familiar and comforting feeling which is so important when feeling anxious and confused.  Try to plan ahead and schedule activities around key routines such as meals and sleeping times.




Studies have shown that music can play a key role in the behaviors of Alzheimer’s and Dementia patients.  If you don’t have time for a night of traditional family sing songs around the Christmas tree ;), simply putting on a holiday CD or finding a Christmas music radio station can be very soothing and even bring back recollections of different Christmas celebrations. Don’t forget to look outside your home for help. There are many carolling events held in local churches, schools and community centres and you can often find caroller’s wondering the local malls also. Favourite songs can really engage a person with Alzheimer’s or Dementia and help them experience the magic of the season.



3.  Keeping Traditions

The familiarity of holiday traditions can be a great source of comfort and happiness during the madness and rush of the season.  Think about how to include your loved one in some of the biggest and most fun traditions such as decorating the tree.  There may be one or two specific ornaments that may have extra meaning for your loved one, or maybe just seeing it will evoke a feeling of familiarity and joy.  Christmas baking, wrapping presents, watching a familiar Christmas movie with a specific actor or storyline, even going through last Christmas’ pictures, any of these traditions can help your loved one connect and feel the warmth of the season.

  1. Communicate

Keeping an open and constant dialogue can ease the pressure of the holidays.  A simple “How are you doing” or “How are you feeling with everything that is going on?” may be appreciated. Plan the holidays together, focusing on the things that bring happiness and try to avoid activities that seem overwhelming or stressful.  Try to have a plan “B” in place in case they are experiencing anxiety or other behaviors that may disrupt the events taking place.  Listening is not the only form of communication.  Watch for nervous habits or unsettling movements that may lead to outbursts or other actions.  Lots of stimulation with visitors, outings, even food can make for a very over whelming day, keep in mind sleeping patterns may have to be adjusted.




This is by far the most important tip- ASK. FOR. HELP.-and probably the least implemented.  Asking for help can make such a difference we should actually move it to tip #1.  Caring for someone with these symptoms can be trying, even on the best of days.  Now complicate that responsibility with an entire “season” of crazy schedules, feasts and other holiday obligations, it’s no wonder your holidays can often turn to “holidaze” leaving you physically and emotionally exhausted.  Plan ahead and give yourself a few hours to do whatever it is you like and not necessarily what you need to get done, although for some crossing things of your to-do list may be as stress relieving as getting a massage!  Enlist the help of family and friends throughout the holidays to stay with and do activities with you loved one or ask to take them to any appointments or planned outings they may have.  The gift of time is simple and cost effective; however it can be invaluable to you.  Don’t forget to try and schedule additional help from outside caregivers too.  They are many groups and associations that can help you and not just during the holidays.  Often times it’s the caregivers who need as much help as those we are trying to take care of.  Help can be just click away  Avoid having a holidaze this year. We hope these tips help and give you a holiyea season!

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