Alzheimer’s Association offers holiday tips for families and caregivers

AREA — The holiday season can be a stressful time for many, but for the nearly 100,000 dementia caregivers in Iowa the holidays can be especially challenging. Nearly 30% of caregivers in Iowa report feeling depressed, and 60% have at least one chronic health condition, according to the Alzheimer’s Association’s 2023 Facts and Figures report.
 Lauren Livingston, Director of Communications for the Alzheimer’s Association Iowa Chapter said, “Add in the holidays, and caregivers may feel overwhelmed by traveling with their loved one with dementia and maintaining traditions while also providing care.”
Livingston encourages caregivers and family members to utilize the resources available, many of which are found on the website
The “Dementia Conversations” section on the website offers advice on how to talk about Alzheimer’s and dementia to family members. “That can be challenging sometimes. Our website is a great resource to use for tips on how to navigate these difficult conversations,” Livingston said.
 There is also a helpline number (800-272-3900) available 24/7.  “If you are experiencing challenges with your loved one, even if it’s Christmas Day, we have trained clinicians available through the hotline who can answer any questions,” Livingston said.
The Alzheimer’s Association Iowa Chapter offers the following tips on how families affected by Alzheimer’s and other dementias can safely enjoy time with family and friends during the holidays.
·  Involve the person living with Alzheimer’s: Depending on abilities and preferences, make sure to keep the person with Alzheimer’s involved in the celebrations, such as packing cookies in tins or helping wrap gifts.
· Focus on the things that bring happiness and let go of activities that seem overwhelming, stressful or too risky: Taking on too many tasks can wear on both of you.
·  Plan ahead and make sure loved ones are aware of the situation: Discuss holiday celebrations with family and friends in advance, and make sure everyone understands your caregiving situation and the safety precautions you’re taking to help keep your loved one healthy.    
· Remember everyone needs a break: Offer to give your family’s main caregiver respite while in the presence of other trusted family and friends..
· When attending a holiday party, prepare the host for special needs, such as a quiet room for the person to rest when they get tired, away from the noise and distractions. Crosstalk or simultaneous conversations can be challenging for people living with Alzheimer’s, so encourage guests to try engaging them one-on-one or in smaller group settings instead.
·  Build on traditions and memories: Take time to experiment with new traditions that might be less stressful or a better fit for your caregiving responsibilities, such as watching seasonal movies. If evening confusion and agitation are a problem, consider turning your holiday dinner into a holiday lunch or brunch.
Home for the holidays
Know when someone with Alzheimer’s disease shouldn’t travel: At a certain point in the progression of the disease, travel may become unsafe or impractical. It can cause undue stress and anxiety for the person living with the disease and the caregiver.
Remember, familiarity and routine bring comfort for those living with Alzheimer’s. If a holiday at home is best for your loved one, consider building on traditions and memories and experimenting with new traditions like connecting through video to play a trivia game, cook a recipe together, sing a seasonal song, or share pictures from special moments, such as children opening gifts.
 For those traveling this holiday season:
· Evaluate options for the best mode of travel. Based on needs, abilities, safety and preferences, decide what would provide the most comfort and the least anxiety.
·  Carry with you an itinerary that includes details about each destination. Give copies to family members or friends you will be visiting or to emergency contacts at home.
· Travel during the time of day best for the person. For example, if he or she becomes tired or more agitated in the late afternoon, avoid traveling at this time.
· Have a bag of essentials with you at all times that includes medications, your travel itinerary, a comfortable change of clothes, water, snacks and activities.




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