Tips for Happy Holidays When Your Loved One Has Dementia

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The holidays bring joy, but this can be a stressful time of year too. 
Around Thanksgiving I had the opportunity to visit family, and we were able to bring Grandma home from the nursing home. 
During the day she seemed distant and distracted, so after dinner I spent time chatting with her. Keep in mind—Grandma has always been a quiet person. It would be uncharacteristic for her to be super chatty.
Once I removed some distractions and ended up sitting on the floor to be at her eye level or below, we had a great conversation. We also talked during the meal about how excited she was about the holiday season. It was a short conversation (maybe 10 minutes)—she only spoke in short sentences—but she was engaged.
After she returned home, a family member commented that the only reason we had such a great conversation was that I work at Dementia Care Specialists, and I work with this stuff all the time. Grandma never talks with anyone else that way. 
While it’s true that I work with an organization that helps caregivers and staff engage those they care for, many of the things I did I learned when I worked in long-term care as a Certified Nursing Assistant. Many of the things I did come naturally to me. And many of the things I did anyone can do. 
Here are some strategies I hope you find helpful:
If your loved one wears/needs glasses…
  • Are they wearing glasses?
  • Are the glasses theirs?
  • Are the lenses clean?
If your loved one wears/needs hearing aids…
  • Do they have them in?
  • Are they in the correct ears?
  • Are they turned on?
I also recommend that when you’re communicating you try to:
  1. Sit at eye level or below the person (in my case, I ended up sitting on the floor).
  2. Keep in mind that close-ended questions are often more helpful than open-ended questions. For example, “Would you like coffee, tea, or milk?” might be less overwhelming for your loved one than “What do you want to drink?”
  3. Take your time, giving your loved one time to process and respond.
  4. If possible, limit distractions like loud music.
For more ideas, click below to download our Communication Tips eBook.
I wish you and your family a very happy holiday season!
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“With empathy and caring as our guiding values, we can never compromise treating others with respect and dignity.”

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