Kelley Smith from CarePartners Senior Living joins Suzanne to add insights and advice to the fifth and sixth of Teepa Snow‘s six tips for making holidays successful for those who have Alzheimer’s and dementia, providing advice and insight.
Tip 5: Accept General Comments. Kelley says, “If mom and dad have some memory issues, help them. Teepa gives an example, if you’re Jewish, of setting the menorah on the mantle, but she says Mom might not understand the word menorah. So maybe what you do is, you pick up the menorah. ‘Mom, would you like me to put this over here?’ and show her as you’re doing it. Mom, do you like the green lights of the white lights? Maybe you show her the lights. A lot of times with dementia, the detail is what becomes missing. Grandpa might not be able to describe things specifically, like when you’re helping him get his dinner plate together. Sometimes it’s very general. They might say, I want the bird. I don’t want that yellow stuff. Show Dad the cranberries, this cranberry sauce. ‘Dad, do you like this, you used to like this.’ And don’t make him describe it to you until he wants it, help him. And that’s kind of what she’s getting at with that. Keep it simple.”
Tip 6: Give Room For a Getaway. Kelley clarifies, “I’m a grown up. I can go get in my car and I can drive away, and I can go get away from everybody if I need you. If I have dementia, I can’t do that. So if you’re gonna have mom or dad over, do you have a room that has a bed, that’s on the first floor, easy to get to, that’s a quiet space, if they are overwhelmed and they just need to get away from everybody? They’re not ready to go home yet, but just need a break. Do you have a quiet spot where they can just go reconnect for a minute? Take a nap, be able to put your feet up for a minute. Sometimes that’s all they need, a little bit of quiet time, and they can come back and join the rest of the family recharged again.”
Suzanne adds, “Make it a kid-free zone, too. Let the kids know, grandpa’s just gonna go be quiet for a few minutes. Leave him alone for a little bit. Give them that opportunity to recharge. There are many of us in this world who need that, and don’t have dementia yet. Now put somebody who’s having a hard time keeping up with the conversations, who can’t describe how good dinner was because they can’t find their words, and that’s exhausting. Think about how tired they are, you know. So I love that advice, give them some space.”
As an alternative to having everybody together in one big event, spread out the holiday. Kelley says, “It depends on where they’re at with their dementia journey. Depending on the type of work that you do, many people are off this week. If you have that kind of time, why cram everything into one day? They’re not gonna remember half of it if you do that anyway. You can have dinner at your house and have lunch with mom a day later. If taking her out is too much for her, there are other things you can do. If you’ve got family coming in from out of town that they’d like to see, if they live in assistant living, call the community, check visiting stuff, see if they’ve got anything going on — some of them have holiday dinners that you can sign up for. Lots of places like ours, we even have private dining rooms. You could come in, and bring the kids from out of town to come see mom, and spend an hour or two. Or on Christmas morning, have family show up at different times at the senior living community, bring them some goodies.”
Learn more about CarePartners Senior Living at their website.
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Founder and CEO of Answers for Elders, Inc., Suzanne Newman proclaims often, “Caring for my mom was the hardest thing I ever have done, but it was also my greatest privilege.” Following a career of over 25 years in sales, media, and marketing management, Suzanne Newman found herself on a 6-year journey caring for her mother. Her trials and tribulations as a family caregiver inspired an impassioned life mission outside of the corporate world to revolutionize the journey that so many other American families also find themselves on. In 2009, she became the founder and CEO of Answers for Elders, Inc., subsequently hosting hundreds of radio segments and podcasts, as well as authoring her first book. Suzanne and Answers for Elders, Inc. have spent 14 years, and counting, committed to helping families and seniors along their caregiving journeys by providing education, resources, and support. Each week on the Answers for Elders podcast, Suzanne is joined by vetted professional experts in over 65 categories including Health & Wellness, Life Changes, Living Options, Money, Law, and more. Suzanne lives in Edmonds, Washington with her husband, Keith, and their two doodle dogs, Whidbey and Skagit.