Holiday ideas for caregivers

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    By Kay Kaylor
    PREVIEW Columnist

    I advocate for residents in skilled nursing and assisted living residences as the Region 9 long-term care ombudsman employed at the San Juan Basin Area Agency on Aging (SJBAAA). Some of the many aging and care concerns will be addressed here.

    The Alzheimer’s Association (AA) offers multiple resources for caregivers of people living with dementia symptoms. As holiday preparations begin during the pandemic, some of the following tips might help families. Most of the information here is taken from this website: alz.org/help-support/resources/holidays.

    • To adjust everyone’s’ expectations, arrange for a group discussion to discuss celebrations in advance. Give gift suggestions for the person living with cognitive or memory issues, considering stress and risks. The AA website link above gives ideas.

    • This is also a time to make sure caregivers pay attention to their own physical, mental and emotional well-being.

    • Be sure to involve the person living with dementia in plans and activities, considering what is most comfortable and enjoyable for that person.

    • Let guests and others know what to expect about any changes they might see in the person living with dementia. For example, the person might be particularly moody this time of year and express it in different ways. A sample letter is included in the earlier link.

    • Give yourself permission to plan manageable and safe activities. Your gatherings might need to be smaller and more casual. A tradition might have to be altered or eliminated this year.

    • Consider celebrating earlier in the day to avoid evening confusion by the person receiving care.

    • Holiday activities might include dropping off baked goods, walking or driving to look at outside decorations, a holiday parade by family members and friends, outdoor visits with warm drinks and creating cards to send.

    • Create videos of people opening gifts, baking or sending greetings. Or invite others for a live video of playing games or singing songs.

    • Be aware that loud sounds or too many people talking at once might lead to anxiety or difficulty following the conversation for the person living with dementia.

    SJBAAA offers resources for people age 60 and older or with Medicare; see sjbaaa.org. For further information and assistance, call (970) 264-0501 and listen to the recording to select an extension.