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November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month and it is also the beginning of the holiday season. That makes this the perfect time to think about the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease and how it can change the dynamic of family gatherings. The disease changes the person who suffers from it, and creates uncertainty for family members who may be hesitant to interact with him or her. However, sharing information and insight about the disease can improve understanding, and smooth the way for a comforting and engaging time. You can make holiday gatherings easier for everyone by familiarizing family members with the senior’s current cognitive state, and ways in which to interact with the senior. When you communicate simple guidelines to family members, it can go a long way toward relieving stress and improving relaxation for everyone at the holiday gathering.
  • One of the cruelest parts of Alzheimer’s disease is that in the early stages the sufferer is aware of the memory loss that is occurring. He or she may look and act normal but inside they are struggling mightily to keep up with conversations.
  • Don’t interrupt when the senior speaks, even if he or she is repeating sentences. Let the conversation finish.
  • Do not remind them, or tell them they have forgotten things, or that the topic was just discussed. This will hurt and insult them.
  • If the senior forgets who you are, or your name, kindly and gently introduce yourself by relationship, “Hi, I am your son’s daughter”. Don’t be insulted - it isn’t personal.
  • If the senior mistakes a family member for someone else, decide what is important, clarifying who the family member is, or engaging with the senior to talk and enjoy the moment. (It is usually the latter!)
  • Alzheimer’s Disease can create unpredictable behavior. They may lash out unexpectedly or get upset for no apparent reason. Tell the family you are prepared to deal with this and should it occur, you will quietly and respectfully redirect the person to something positive and guide them to a quieter place.
The goal of family gatherings is to remind ourselves of the love and support we have in our extended family. Even those suffering with the more severe stages of Alzheimer’s disease will feel that positive energy, and studies have shown that the “glow” from that love will remain with them even after they have forgotten the celebration. If the senior suffering with Alzheimer’s experiences increased difficulties toward the end of the day (known as “sundowning”) make sure that their participation in holiday events has ended by then. It will be time for them to rest and be in a familiar, comforting environment. We understand these things. Home Care Assistance is a recognized leader in Alzheimer’s and dementia care. We know the importance of comfort and familiarity for our clients who suffer from dementia and that the right - often a familiar - environment and an experienced and skilled caregiver can mean the difference between a good day and a bad day. We can assist you by providing skilled caregivers who will care for your loved one and allow you to carry out your responsibilities for holiday preparations. No one wants to be left behind, and we are here to make sure all of your family members can enjoy this time of year.
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