Sunday, Apr 20, 2014

Things to keep in mind to survive the holidays

Common Sense Caregiving
Published:   |   Updated: May 7, 2013 at 07:21 PM

Like everyone else during the holidays, caregivers have extra errands to run and activities to attend in what feels like an extremely short period of time.

I've always stressed the importance of learning and then embracing the practice of asking for help from the very beginning of your caregiving journey. If you have not yet reached out to someone to ask for assistance, this holiday season is a perfect time to start.

Try asking a relative, friend or neighbor to stay with your loved one so you can get out and do your holiday shopping. Do this in short time periods at first and see how it goes. If things go well, then you will be able to lengthen your outings.

This time of year is stressful for most people, but if you are caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's or dementia, the tension level may go through the roof. As for the patients, their anxiety level can hit an all-time high during this season.

Blinking lights, crowds, multiple voices; these are just a few of the things you will want to protect loved ones with Alzheimer's from dealing with.

Plan ahead. Keep your holiday festivities to a minimum. As the old saying goes, "walk a mile in their shoes." Refrain from what may cause them extra confusion.

I suggest celebrating in the comfort of their own home. Taking them to another family member's dwelling could prove to be too upsetting for them. It is usually best to observe the holiday in a familiar environment. This will do wonders in keeping them in a state of calm.

Schedule visits from other loved ones in advance, making sure you don't get a houseful of guests all at once. Spread the day out, giving family members different time slots. The sound of everyone speaking at once may be very disturbing to patients, ruining the holiday for everyone.

If Sundowners is an issue, have a responsible cutoff time for company.

Toning down the Christmas decorations is something that could be crucial. Rearranging the house for a tree with blinking lights and large holiday displays may overwhelm any tranquility loved ones may achieve. In my case, I recall that if I moved just one piece of furniture in our house my father no longer recognized his own home.

Every family member has thought, "This may be our last Christmas together." Sadly, whether this is true or not, make sure it's a peaceful one.

Just do the best you can with the situation at hand and enjoy the holidays . By changing a few family rituals, you may still have the joyful holiday season you both deserve.

Gary Joseph LeBlanc was the primary caregiver of his father for a decade after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. He can be reached at His newly released book, "While I Still Can" and the expanded edition of, "Staying Afloat in a Sea of Forgetfulness," can be found at

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