Monday, 19 December 2011

Preventing Anxiety During the Holidays

Photo credit: Geoff Robins/THE CANADIAN PRESS
Recently, two of our project partners were featured in a Globe & Mail article titled, Holidays can trigger anxiety in people with dementia. In sharing their own story, Jim and Linda have imparted several important considerations for people with dementia and their care partners during the holiday season.

Together with the L.E.A.D. Group in Brantford, ON (a day program for persons living with early stage dementia), MAREP has developed the following holiday suggestions:

Holiday Considerations for Persons with Dementia

When visiting with family and friends….

v Limit the number of guests.

v Ask friends and relatives to call before they visit.  This will allow you to prepare yourself.

v Visit during your best time of day.

v Ask friends and relatives to host gatherings.

v Ask host where there is a quiet space you can retreat to if needed.

v Use a calendar or sticky notes to track gatherings.

v Set a reasonable holiday schedule that won’t wear you out – spread visits out over the month.

v Cut back on the number of presents – pick names for gift giving.

v KISS (Keep It Simple Sweetheart).
When doing holiday shopping…

v Avoid malls during busy times.

v Set limits - don’t worry about buying gifts for as many people now.  “I only buy for the small children in my family.”

v Send money rather than gifts, OR, give the gift of “Time.”

v Have your spouse/family member to help you shop (give them a list).

v Shop on-line or out of a catalogue to avoid crowded stores.

v Buy stock, bonds or gift-cards.
When baking for the holidays…

v Buy already made baked goods from grocery store or bakery.

v Get a family member or friend who like to bake to bake with you or for you.

v Make only the types of baking goods that you really enjoy and you are able to make. “I make fewer things now.” 

v Have family/spouse help by gathering the ingredients or do parts of the baking.  Bake with the children/grandchildren.  This allows them to learn while helping you.

v Use a check-list when baking.  Check off each ingredient you add or step that you complete.
When sending out holiday cards to family and friends…

v Make lists (if you have not received a card from someone for over two years, remove them from your list).

v Exchange/share just one card between friends (send 1 card to and from each other each year).

v Send fewer cards over the holidays.  “I only send to relatives who live far away.”

v E-mail or call relatives rather than send cards.  “It is less expensive and I enjoy hearing from relatives and friends at this time of year.”

v Ask friends/ relatives to pass greetings on to others for you.

v Spend “Face Time” instead of writing cards.
When preparing meals for the holidays...

v Eat at other family and friends homes.

v Cook less.  Buy a turkey breast rather than a whole turkey, or a prepared holiday meal.

v Eat out!  Some restaurants are open Christmas Day.  No cooking and no cleaning!

v Provide finger foods or have pot luck.

 Holiday Considerations for Families of Persons with Dementia

v Set priorities for the holidays based on what is  most important for you and your family member with dementia.
v Take your time – synchronize your pace to that of your family member with dementia. Excessive activities can be overwhelming.
v Plan one activity at a time – multi-tasking can lead to frustration for all.
v Understand if your family member doesn’t seem to appreciate the efforts of preparing an elaborate dinner or being part of a large holiday party – they may be happy to just be in your company and get anxious with all of the activity involved in the event (e.g., meal prep or large family gathering).

v Consider the noise level and alleviate the  distractions can impact a person with dementia when large groups of family/friends are gathered.  Do not be offended if your family member wants to go home or would like a quiet space to relax.   

v Be considerate of the words “do you remember” – do not pressure a person to remember specifics if the memories do not easily come. Perhaps reflections can be based on “I remember when we used to go to…” or “How I enjoyed that holiday when we….” 
v Reminisce during the holidays by sharing photo albums of previous holiday celebrations, or play  favourite holiday movies or music .  

 Holiday Considerations for Staff
Working with Persons with Dementia and their Families
v Holidays may be a joyous celebration for some and distressing/sad for others. Some persons with dementia may have family/friends who visit and others may be alone. Be sensitive to the needs and feelings of persons with dementia at this time of year.
v Take time to learn about the person with dementia – their preferences, culture, religion and ethnicity. Provide opportunities for persons with dementia to celebrate the holidays according to their own preferences (e.g., music, videos, family events, etc.). Sharing holiday practices and traditions can be a meaningful exchange for both staff and persons with dementia.
v Consider the noise level and alleviate  distractions.  Increased activity and visits to a person’s home or long-term care residence can be overwhelming.
v Be sensitive to family members who can no longer celebrate the holidays as they once did.  Provide opportunities for persons with dementia and their families to celebrate the holidays together through shared family activities and programs.

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