The holiday season is upon us. For most of us, this is a time of joy and celebration. For those of you that have a loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia, the holiday season can be as challenging a time as the rest of the year, if not more so. For many years, the holidays were filled with family meals and gatherings in the home of one family member or another. Often, there are many memories of joyous times in the home of the loved one who now resides in an assisted living community. This factalone can be quite unsettling, especially if the move into a care community occurred just recently. While a holiday visit to your loved one in assisted living might pale in comparison to the holidays of yesteryear, it can still be a special time for you and your loved ones.
It is important to set some realistic expectations for the holidays with regards to your loved one suffering from memory loss. Typically, there are one or two family members who are most actively involved in coordinating care, overseeing finances, and visiting. The rest of the family might not be as aware of the extent of the Alzheimer’s/dementia and other health problems. During the holiday season, there might be a tendency to invite extended family for a visit to the assisted living community, such as grandchildren and great grandchildren. If that is the case, some of the visitors might be taken aback by the condition of their loved one and their new home. It is a good idea to prepare everyone for the visit in advance to whatever extent possible to avoid any surprises. It’s also important to consider that some people with Alzheimer’s/dementia can sometimes have adverse reactions to large groups. If you’re not sure, it might be best to consult with the caregivers at the community beforehand.
For most, the holidays are a time for family traditions. Whether it be caroling, decorating, getting together for turkey dinner, or watching old movies, many families have holiday traditions that have spanned decades. Although it probably won’t be feasible to continue with those same traditions during a visit to an assisted living community, it is possible to maintain the spirit of those traditions by starting new ones. With a little trial and error, you can find some simple routines that will make your visit special to both you and your loved ones. You can also share pictures of past celebrations and talk with your loved one about special memories.
With some planning and preparation, a holiday visit to your loved one in assisted living can still be something to look forward to. However, keep in mind that it will undoubtedly be a very emotional time, especially for those who don’t visit often. Even when planning and preparation make for a celebratory occasion, there will still likely be some level of pain and sadness involved. Also, some of amount of grieving might be necessary as you mourn the loss of the happy holidays in the family home. Open communication and sharing feelings with your loved ones are the best tools to helping you through any difficult feelings. At Iris Senior Living, our staff are well-educated on creative ways to engage with your loved one, as well as ways to cope with the grief and stress. We are always available to listen. Please let us know how we can help!