Include Friends, family with Alzheimer's, dementia in holiday celebrations

Gatherings also a time to notice if loved ones are experiencing early disease onset
Star Herald Editorial

As families across Rock County prepare for the holidays, they will join 16 million families and friends who are also caring for someone living with Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia.

Though holiday celebrations are often happy occasions, they can be challenging and stressful for those impacted by Alzheimer’s.

This doesn’t mean our loved ones with Alzheimer’s shouldn’t be included in celebrations, but the following tips can help make the celebration experience pleasant for everyone:

Make sure others know. Let guests know what to expect before they arrive and tell them how they can help, such as offering activities they can do with the person living with Alzheimer’s and explaining the best way to communicate with them.

Build on traditions and memories. Take time to experiment with new traditions that might be less stressful and a better fit with your caregiving responsibilities. For example, if evening confusion and agitation are a problem, turn your holiday dinner into a holiday lunch.

Involve the person with Alzheimer’s. Depending on abilities and preferences, make sure to keep the person with Alzheimer’s involved in the celebration, such as packing cookies in tins or helping to wrap gifts.

Plan ahead. When attending a holiday party, prepare the host for any special needs such as a quiet room for the person to rest, away from noise and distractions.

“Keep things simple, manage expectations and these celebrations can still be happy, memorable occasions,” said Heidi Haley-Franklin with the Alzheimer’s Association Minnesota-North Dakota Chapter. “We also advise the community to reach out to us if they have questions or need support.”

The Alzheimer’s Association provides year-round resources such as a 24/7 Helpline, 800-272-3900, and web resources,

The holiday season is also a time for families to notice if a loved one may be struggling to remember and may signal early onset of Alzheimer’s.

BodyLogicMD, a network of physician-owned practices, surveyed nearly 1,000 people directly affected by the disease and found five top signs to look for including confusion about where they are, difficulty communicating, personality changes, inability to recall your name and inability to recognize you.

They also identified the top five preventative measures of memory loss: exercise more often; participate in games, puzzles or brain exercises; begin taking supplements; change diet; and use brain training or neuroplasticity apps.

Locally, several agencies and organizations have teamed up to provide support for families facing the challenges of Alzheimer’s and dementia.

The Rock County Dementia Network began earlier this year as a one-stop location for families facing dementia challenges.

Carrie Soto with the Good Samaritan Communities is the Network’s contact. Her phone number is 507-283-1996.


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