Jim Mann: A few tips for surviving the holidays

For families caring for a loved one with dementia, there are things to bear in mind for this time of year

  • Dec. 4, 2011 1:00 p.m.

For most families, regardless of faith or culture, holidays are a time of joy, celebration and enjoying one another’s company. However, if you’re caring for someone with dementia, the holiday season can be difficult. Typical stressors at this time of year include:

Dealing with the memories of past holidays, and the unexpected feelings and emotions these memories cause.

Feeling overwhelmed with maintaining traditions while keeping up with caregiving responsibilities.

Visitors who don’t feel comfortable relating to a person with dementia.

Trying to live up to others’ expectations.

The person you’re caring for may also have difficulty coping with the holidays. Perhaps he or she feels a particular sense of loss at this time of year or finds the disruption in routine caused by holiday activities distressing.

What can you do to survive the holidays?

Adjust expectations. Talk to family members and friends to ensure they understand your situation and that their expectations are realistic. Perhaps you can work together to adapt your traditional activities to suit the needs of the person with dementia.

Minimize holiday stress. Pick and choose the holiday activities and traditions that mean the most to you and to your family member – don’t try to do it all.

Involve the person with dementia

Wrap presents

Hang decorations

Pack cookies in tins for gifts

Listen to music, sing holiday songs

Drive around in the evening to look at the holiday lights.

Jim Mann is a board member of the Alzheimer Society of B.C. and Alzheimer Society of Canada. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2007 and is an active advocate and spokesperson for the cause.