DAYTON – While holidays can be a joyous time for many families, they can be challenging for families affected by Alzheimer’s. The current COVID-19 crisis is adding even more complexities that can feel overwhelming for many families impacted by Alzheimer’s.
Rebecca Hall, program director for the Alzheimer’s Association Miami Valley Chapter, said caregivers need to look for ways to de-stress by creating new traditions and finding new ways for their family members to help make this season satisfying for all.
“At the end of the day, support your caregivers,” Hall said. “Talk with them to find out what they need, such as buying gifts or baking/food preparation. Be a support for them during this busy time.”
While Alzheimer’s and dementia do not increase the risk of COVID-19, dementia-related behaviors, increased age and common health conditions that often accompany dementia may increase risk. To help families navigate these challenges and provide a meaningful and enjoyable holiday season, the Alzheimer’s Association recommends the following tips to make the holidays enjoyable and safe for all:
-Talk to Your Family: As caregivers consider options for the holiday, Hall suggests that they arrange a group discussion via telephone, video call or email for family and friends to discuss holiday celebrations in advance. Everyone needs to understand your caregiving situation, the safety precautions you’re taking to help keep your loved one healthy and set realistic expectations about what you can and cannot do.
-Modify and Adjust: No one should expect you to maintain every holiday tradition or event, especially during a pandemic. Do what is manageable and safe. Schedule your own “holiday parade” and ask family members and friends to drive with homemade signs or other festive decorations. Take a ride to go see holiday lights.
-Involve the Person Living with Dementia: Ask him or her to help you prepare food, wrap packages, help decorate or set the table. FYI blinking lights may also confuse the person.
-Use Technology to your Advantage: Record and send a holiday video greeting to family and friends. Schedule a time for several households to watch a favorite movie and share comments over the phone. If not gathering in person, determine who is best to coordinate and assist all with being able to manage the technology and participate.
-Take Extra Precautions for In-Person Gatherings: If you choose to include older adults in an in-person holiday gathering, it is critical to weigh the risks to their health. Even when precautions are taken, close contact with anyone outside of your household increases the risk of spreading COVID-19.
Consider the following if you choose to include older adults in a face-to-face gathering:
-Do not attend or host a gathering if you have been (or think you have been) exposed to COVID-19.
-Ask attendees to avoid or strictly limit contact with others for 14 days prior to your gathering.
The Alzheimer’s Association is available 24/7 to answer these and other questions. For immediate help, call the association’s helpline at 800-272-3900.
Submitted by the Alzheimer’s Association Miami Valley Chapter.