By Rebecca Fending
Now is the time of year when we are so thankful for our family and friends. It’s in the name of November’s largest holiday, after all. However, many families experience change from year to year in terms of aging family members, including a new diagnosis for Alzheimer’s. November is National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, the perfect time to educate yourself on ways you can help keep those who have the disease as happy as possible.
Celebrating with Alzheimer’s
What are some ways you can help make family members with this disease feel more comfortable during the holidays? First, be sure you know what to expect in the person’s behavior so you can then learn how to help them work through it. According to the National Institute for Aging (NIA), a few common symptoms of Alzheimer’s are:
- Easily triggered into emotional or physical aggression, often due to their fear and confusion while surrounded by other people
- Disinterest or depression
- Hiding or concealing objects, or believing that other people are doing the same
- Wandering or leaving home
- Misinterpreting situations around them
- Displaying uncharacteristic sexual behavior
So, how can you celebrate safely with someone with Alzheimer’s? The best tactic is to keep things simple, according to the NIA. This means not asking or saying too many things at a given time to them. Start with a singular question and answer with one sentence. This will help them better comprehend and keep track of the conversation. Do not try to argue or debate with person, as this can lead to outbursts and aggression.
If you suspect that the person may be scared or nervous, be gentle with them. Assure them that they are safe and welcome. Be sure to be kind and smile, and even offer to get them whatever they need. Humor is a great way to keep them engaged and happy–they haven’t forget how to laugh with you.
If they are someone who tends to pace, be sure they have comfortable shoes for doing so, and allow them plenty of space to walk. Try to keep yourself or others from forcing the person to stop. This could lead to aggression or further upset.
Over all, be patient and understanding.
November is also National Family Caregivers Month, so be sure to check-in on any other family members who look after others to see if there’s any way you might be able to lessen their responsibilities this season. Caregivers are at a higher risk of depression and other illnesses as caused by their numerous responsibilities in caring for those with Alzheimer’s, dementia or other deteriorative diseases.
Regardless of how you plan to celebrate this month, be sure to include and take care of any family members with Alzheimer’s. Although they might not realize it, they need family time as much as we do!