Every year, during Christmas and New Year's Eve, most families gather to spend time together. This period of holidays and changes is likely to affect everyone: also people living with Alzheimer's disease. In two weeks many holidays are concentrated, and this can modify the routine that is essential for people affected by Alzheimer's.
The aim of this Decalogue is help families with a member affected by this disease to deal with it easily. On the one hand, the main caregiver must be able to rest and take advantage to gain strength and, on the other, the person with Alzheimer's must be able to keep a routine to feel safe and confident, in order to avoid mood swings or emotional alteration.
The person with Alzheimer's, in the course of the disease, loses cognitive but not emotional abilities. It is able to enjoy, feel and suffer like any other. Making them feel loved, respected, and part of the family or group is the best present we could give them: a time of comfort and happiness for everyone.
It is preferable that the person with Alzheimer's celebrates these holidays in a familiar environment. If it is not possible and the celebration takes place in a third person house or in a restaurant, we must ensure that the person with Alzheimer feels relaxed. It would also be advisable to avoid conversation topics that may upset him/her. If there are children, it is advisable to explain them the situation in an understandable and calm way, but in any case, it is necessary to endure that the person with dementia is not affected by noise or children's games.
It is a good idea to make them participate in the organization of the celebration, according to the capacity of each one. With simple tasks (supervised, if necessary) such as putting napkins on the table, we can make them feel that they are a key piece of our Christmas. It is important not to tell them off if they do not carry out any of these tasks properly.
It is nice to meet with family and friends. Do not limit the groups, the person with Alzheimer's can also participate in these meetings. We do not have to come into conflict because of the way they dress, but tactfully we have to ensure that they dress in a way that suits the environment of the party and go to the hairdresser, if possible.
Excessive stimuli can cause anxiety. Anxiety will manifest in the form of desire to leave or bad mood. To manage anxiety, the most appropriate thing is to physically separate them from where they were (there is no need to leave the room, just taking another seat would be enough) and do some relaxing activity. For example, read a book or a magazine, play domino, etc.
In the presence of people that the affected person does not see frequently it may occur that he/she does not recognize them or does not remember their names. We must try not to make it evident, not insisting in the fact that he/she knows them already. Not recognizing someone is another symptom of the disease.
IMPORTANT! We have to watch out food and drinking. Often, people with Alzheimer's disease do not feel full and carry on eating, which can lead to subsequent discomfort. In addition, we have to take care with drinking since it can have an adverse effect with medication: drugs such as antidepressants or antipsychotics enhance the effect of alcohol.
Let's try to monitor and maintain regular bowel movements and urination habits: the change in routine could make them forget.
We have to try to keep the usual cognitive and physical activity during holidays. Reading, playing, walking, painting, dancing ... You also have to try to keep the same schedules in terms of medication and rest.
We have to foster a relaxed atmosphere, without shrill or without fuss. We have to keep distance between the person with Alzheimer's disease and the possible causes of stress. It is good to carry out activities such as colouring pictures or books that interest you, etc. It is also advisable to get some resting time between lunch and dinner, for example, on key days. And above all, if the person with dementia disconnects from the conversation or stops participating, it is important that we respect this pause, being at the same time attentive to their needs.
It has to be a Christmas for everyone. The main caregiver has to let other people help him/her and it is important to organize so that all the work does not fall constantly on the same person. Rest and have fun, as well as feeling loved, are necessary for people with Alzheimer's as well as their caregivers.