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How the Holidays Affect People with Alzheimer's & Dementia

Matthew Ralph-Savage

December 15, 2020

The holidays are usually a time of togetherness and happiness, but they can also be pretty stressful. Due to the current struggle with COVID-19, people with Alzheimer’s and Dementia may experience more loneliness, depression and anxiety than usual. While Alzheimer’s is not a COVID-19 risk factor, the people it affects are typically 65 and older, which is a high-risk group.

The additional stress on those at higher-risk can be overwhelming for caregivers and families trying to navigate restrictions while tending to their loved one. If you have a family member or someone you care for with Alzheimer’s and dementia, there are ways to keep them engaged and stress-free during the holiday season that still keeps everyone safe during these unprecedented times.

Increased Depression and Anxiety

Spending holidays apart is recommended to continue social distancing while the pandemic is still happening. For those living in care facilities with Alzheimer’s, dementia, and similar memory loss, who don’t get to spend time with their families, it only adds to the increased feeling of isolation. Most often, this can lead to symptoms of depression.

People living with Alzheimer’s and dementia are also inundated with safety measures that must adhered to, especially in care facilities, during the pandemic. This can make them feel more overwhelmed and confused. The inability to see family, while having to social distance within the facility, while having to follow certain rules can cause anxiety. It can be challenging for dedicated caregivers to bring a sense of calm and reassurance to residents, while doing their best to make sure your family members have a pleasant holiday.

Tips to Bringing Joy and Increasing Wellbeing Over the Holidays

It’s important to remember the holidays are going to be different this year. However, you don’t have to let go of the typical traditions, you can modify them to make memories, and still feel connected to those from afar.

Since restrictions may keep you from visiting care facilities this season, we have recommendations for celebrating safely that will support friends and loved ones with dementia, and their caregivers.

  • Video Calls and Zoom Gatherings

This year, families have gotten acquainted with programs like Zoom and Facetime. To keep everyone safe, having a video gathering is the best way to include your loved one in a care facility.

If you are living with your loved one but have family far away, using video calls to share moments like unwrapping presents with grandchildren, or having meals together over video will help as well.

Other ways to celebrate virtually could be cooking the same meal while on a video call, or playing games.

Since technology isn’t available to everyone, a regular phone call can be just as good, and minimize stress for an older loved one who might not have assistance with video call features.

  • Maximizing In-Person Visits
    If your loved one is in a care facility allowing visits, do it sooner rather than later. Consult with CDC guidelines before making any arrangements. Since most people with Alzheimer’s and dementia are over 65, they fall into the high-risk category for COVID-19.

    Celebrating at home? Keep gatherings small and preferably with people who live in your house.

  • Decorating & Bringing the Holidays to Them
    For caregivers and those living with loved ones with Alzheimer’s and dementia, try to tone down décor to keep anxiety levels down. All of the bright colors and extra stuff around the house can be overstimulating and stressful.

    Avoid fire hazards like candles, and breakable decorations made of glass.

However, you choose to celebrate this year, it’s going to look different from years before. Make sure to pay extra attention to your loved ones with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Many of these people who live in care facilities have experienced more isolation this year from visitation restrictions, making the holidays that much harder.

Increased isolation and confusion can lead to depression and anxiety. When planning for the holidays consult with CDC guidelines to make sure you’re celebrating safely. Use some of these tips to make your holidays enjoyable for you and your loved ones.

While taking care of someone with Alzheimer’s and Dementia, taking care of yourself is just as important. Don’t push yourself to do too much and stick to holiday activities that are easy to maintain and enjoy. Virtual calls to bake together and play games, or an old fashioned phone call are great ways to do this. Have a happy and safe holiday.

Relish develops products and activities that aim to bring joy and connection to people with dementia and their care-givers. Make meaningful connections. Visit www.relish-life.com and find ways to enjoy every moment with people living with Lewy body and other forms of dementia.