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BEACON Senior News - Western Colorado

Holiday advice for caregivers

Nov 29, 2022 11:10AM ● By Joni Karp

For most families, the holidays are about spending quality time with loved ones. But the holidays can be challenging for people with a disability and those who care for them.

It’s important that you update family and friends about the person’s condition. This is especially important if changes in appearance or behaviors and increased memory loss have become more apparent. Be honest. The purpose is to maintain their dignity, avoid embarrassment and create a calm and comfortable environment.

Don’t overwhelm

Recognize agitation, stress and discomfort. Signs include withdrawal and seeking isolation, repetition in behaviors and speech, pacing and outbursts. If your person is self-isolating, allow them that time. Avoid continued coaxing, as this may lead to agitation and undesired behaviors.

Here are some tips to avoid overwhelming your loved one this holiday season:

• Consider having family and friends visit in small groups rather than one big gathering, or consider scheduling it at a time that’s best for the person you are caring for, such as the time of day or evening when they’re most alert and at their best. 

• Be sure to serve foods that your person likes, will recognize and will be easy to eat.

• Include level-appropriate activities that your person can participate in so they feel included.

• When dealing with memory issues, ensure that people introduce themselves and state who they are in relation to that person. Better yet, wear nametags.

• Avoid saying “Remember...”

• Be aware of the tone of your voice. Dementia doesn’t mean deaf. Speak slowly and clearly and allow the person time to respond.

• Follow and engage in their conversation. 

• If the person is in a wheelchair, get down to their level. Do not talk down to them.

• Make eye contact.

• Choose music that is soothing.

• Limit holiday decorations. Avoid clutter and possible tripping hazards.

• Ensure proper lighting and room temperature.

• When assisting with personal needs, whisper in their ear.

• Above all, be patient.

Your self-care checklist

• Join a support group.

• Don’t take anything personally. 

• Don’t get stuck in tradition. Make memories with new traditions. 

• Breathe deeply and allow family and friends to provide you with moments of respite. Step away, mingle and enjoy. 

• When others ask if or how they can help, don’t be shy. Tell them. 

• If guests ask what they can bring, suggest gifts that really will help, such as frozen prepared foods, an IOU for caregiving that offers you respite, an offer to run specific errands, etc.

• Take photos and videos to record special and humorous moments.

• Above all, love, laugh and enjoy. Cherish every moment. 

This article was provided by Joni Karp with Cappella. Click here to view Cappella's website.

Terry Mizak right shares information about HopeWests caregiving resources with Callie Varra left

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