DIMENSIONS Autumn 2007

How can I make the holiday season more enjoyable for a loved one with Alzheimer's?

Q. My grandmother has Alzheimer’s disease. She still recognizes the immediate family but gets confused around too many people. How can I help her enjoy the holiday season without being overwhelmed by all the activity?

A. Holidays can be challenging because of the increased activity and confusion that are typical in most families. One of the best ways to celebrate the season with your grandmother is to encourage each familiar family member to set aside a little time to spend with her individually, doing something that she would enjoy. She might enjoy simple holiday tasks, such as decorating cookies, putting ornaments on the tree or wrapping gifts. Singing holiday songs or reading together may be meaningful activities for her. If her physical health permits, a short outing could be enjoyable – a drive to see holiday lights, an early morning walk at the mall to window shop or listening to carolers. If your grandmother belongs to a church or synagogue, she may enjoy attending one of the more low-key holiday services.

If you have many family members, make a calendar and encourage everyone to check the overall schedule of activities and to be flexible and have several alternative plans in case one doesn’t work out. Finally, don’t be discouraged if your grandmother doesn’t remember outings or activities afterward. Our research indicates that even if she doesn’t recall them, these activities will still have a positive impact on her mood, well-being and quality of life.

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