Monday, December 20, 2004

Alzheimer's caregiving at Christmas

Holidays present special challenges for demented patients and their caregivers. Disrupted routines can cause unexpected agitation and unpredictable outbursts. Caregivers often feel pressured to carry on with Christmas as they have in the past, and it's hard to know what's realistic.

The Alzheimer's Association has practical advice for caregivers during the holidays:
Give yourself permission to do only what you can reasonably manage. No one can expect you to maintain every holiday tradition or event. If you've always invited 15-20 people to your home, consider inviting five for a simple meal...

Familiarize others with your situation by writing a letter that makes these points:

"I'm writing this letter to let you know how things are going at our house. While we're looking forward to your visit, we thought it might be helpful if you understood our current situation before you arrive.

"You may notice that ____ has changed since you last saw him/her. Among the changes you may notice are ____. I've enclosed a picture so you know how ____ looks now.

"Because ____sometimes has problems remembering and thinking clearly, his/her behavior is a little unpredictable. Please understand that ____ may not remember who you are and may confuse you with someone else. Please don't feel offended by this. He/she appreciates your being with us and so do I. Please treat ____ as you would any person. A warm smile and a gentle touch on ____'s shoulder or hand will be appreciated more than you know.

"I would ask that you call before you come to visit or when you're nearby so we can prepare for your arrival. Caregiving is a tough job, and I'm doing the very best I can. With your help and support, we can create a holiday memory that we'll treasure."

There is also advice about involving the person with Alzheimer's disease in holiday activities, and suggestions for gift-giving. More caregiving tips are available at the Alzheimers Association website, and at

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