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Viewpoint | Navigating dementia during the holidays

Guest Commentary by Diane Rock

Holidays can be a wonderful time of year when families get together and catch up on each other’s busy lives. All too often is also the time that you may find that things aren’t quite the same with our aging family members.

Those twenty-minute calls once or twice a month made everything seem a okay with the parents or grandparents. But now, you have noticed the signs and symptoms of dementia are starting to show.

Beginning signs often overlooked by many families are now more noticeable. Their loved one may not be eating well - losing weight can often be one of the first signs - along with falls, forgetfulness and/or a noticeable change in their personal hygiene. That parent, grandparent or close friend feels like they are older, forgetting things here and there, but it doesn’t seem alarming.

In couples where the spouse is suffering from dementia, they may become more argumentative and suspicious. Due to their forgetfulness, they assume the other is being untruthful.

Spouses often try to hide the signs and symptoms of dementia from their partner. Truly needing help, but not wanting to feel vulnerable, they are afraid of not being in control of their life they have built together.

A few things to keep in mind when celebrating and wanting to include family or friends suffering from dementia during the holiday season:

Your loved on may not realize that it a holiday and may ask often "Where should I be?". By responding with a reassuring answer such: "We are right where we should be, Ted invited us for dinner." This can give comfort to someone with dementia.

When around friends and family that they no longer recognize, avoid asking, “don’t you remember So-and-So?” It can be very frustrating and make them feel very inadequate or add to their confusion. While they may respond with a yes, they may still not have any idea who the person is or their relationship to them.

Please remember that sometimes over stimulation, like continuous loud environments or sudden noises, can sometimes bring about agitation or confusion.

Everyone loves seeing the excitement of young children especially at the holidays. But a busy, fast-paced environment is sometimes too much for someone with this disease. They no longer can process these situations as they once did and an innocuous experience may cause a sudden negative mood swing.

Consumption of alcohol has a much different effect on someone with dementia, especially if they are taking prescription medication and should be avoided.

Overall, just be mindful that your loved one may not enjoy these experiences as they did prior to onset of dementia. In advanced stages, it is often better to just spend quiet moments together separate from large family groups.

Remember that people with dementia continue to need loving, safe relationships and a caring touch not only during the holiday season, but everyday.


Diane Rock is the Community Resource Director at Amber Glen Alzheimer's Special Care Center located at 1704 E Amber Lane in Urbana. Learn more about Amber Glen and the memory care services they provide by visiting their website at www.amberglenalz.com.

This article is the sole opinions of the author and does not necessarily reflect the views of The Sentinel. We welcome comments and viewpoints from readers who make up our diverse audience.


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