Reducing Holiday Stress for those with
  Alzheimer's Disease  
by Lyn Dorenze, Senior Advocate

The holiday season tends to be stressful for most of us with the added duties of gift buying and social events to attend.  For those caring for someone with Alzheimer's disease another layer of stress is added.  The following are tips to help caregivers and family members minimize the stress and continue to find joy in the holiday season.

The basic rule of thumb is to keep the holiday preparations and celebrations simple.  As much as possible, educate family members and friends about the disease so that they understand the changes that have taken place with your loved one and why your holiday plans need to be modified.  Maintain many of the traditions you love, just make them a mini-version.  This will allow you and your loved one to enjoy these traditions without being overwhelmed.

Decorating - Rather than bringing out all of your decorations, bring out only those which are your favorites.  The new artificial trees are easy to assemble and many are very attractive and have the lights already strung on them.  It is best, however, to avoid blinking lights which can cause agitation.  Be aware of cords and decorations that can easily be broken.

Shopping - Shop during the week before noon when the stores are less crowded and your loved one is not tired.  Have your list prepared so that you can accomplish your shopping in a short time.  Remember to take note of where you parked your car!  If possible, have someone come into your home and stay with your loved one while you shop or utilize the local adult day programs where your loved one can enjoy socialization while your are shopping.

Family gatherings and activities - Keep gatherings small and earlier in the day.  A brunch or luncheon would probably be more successful than a family dinner or evening event.  If you are going to someone else's home, be sure they understand that you may have to leave early if the gathering is overwhelming your loved one.

Activities - Do sing Christmas Carols and other holiday songs.  Music is remembered and enjoyed by all, even those with severe memory loss.  Watching the classic holiday movies together at home as well as the holiday specials on television are stress free and enjoyable activities.

Also, remember that your level of stress will affect your loved one with Alzheimer's disease.  Keeping the holidays simple, and yet memorable, will be a gift you'll be giving yourself!
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