Caregivers, Take Good Care of Yourself During Holidays

(Mayo Clinic with Angela Lunde) With the holiday season well under way, you can find a great deal of information on the web about ways to manage the season when you have a loved one with dementia, including on this site.

The truth though is that many of us enter the holiday season with a mixed bag of memories and emotions. Rituals, familiar food and smells, songs and decorations all stimulate memories of people and holidays past. The season may loom particularly heavy for those who have a loved one with Alzheimer’s.

It’s common to experience feelings of loss for “the way things used to be,” or to have a sense of guilt about what we think we should do, or how we think we should feel. If you followed my blog last year at this time, you may recall the themes I advocate most during the holidays: First, adjust your expectations, and second keep it simple. I want to add one more this year — take good care of yourself.

From now until the end of the year, consider making a plan to take at least 15 minutes a day to turn your attention inward and focus your mind on the present moment — easier said than done I know. Yet, studies have shown that meditation or mindfulness can be helpful in stopping ruminations over things that cause stress (such as caregiving for someone with a dementing illness and/or the holidays). A meditation practice helps people keep from dwelling on negative thoughts, gives you a mental break and a way to gain perspective and a greater sense of contentment.

Set aside 15 minutes when you are least likely to be interrupted. You may simply sit on the floor or in a comfortable chair with your eyes closed and focus on your breath (noting the sounds, temperature and rhythm) or listen to calming music. You could take a bath in a candlelit room or take a walk outdoors — anything to settle the mind from thoughts of the past and future. I heard someone once refer to meditation for caregivers as “refueling your caring center.”

Please share your thoughts. Peaceful holidays to all.


Angela Lunde

© 1998-2014 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. All rights reserved.


How to Keep an Eye Out for Signs of Alzheimer’s During the Holidays

(The Huffington Post) The holiday season is a great time for families to come together and spend quality time with one another. However, if you have older adults in your family, this time of the year can also be a great time to look for the signs of Alzheimer’s disease developing.

While no one ever wants anyone in their family to have issues with Alzheimer’s disease, it is a very common condition that impacts millions of adults every year. The earlier you are able to detect signs of Alzheimer’s, the easier this condition can be to handle and the more proactive you and your loved one can be about handling this disease.

There is more family time spent during the holiday than during any other time of the year. Also, many times, if you have gone without seeing a loved one for several months, it can be easier to notice some of the signs and symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

Here are the 10 early detection signs of Alzheimer’s, as determined by the Alzheimer’s Association. Keep these warning sings in the back of your mind during the holidays so you can help a friend, family member or loved one notice an issue if it is developing.

The 10 Early Detection Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease

  • Changes in personality or mood
  • Being withdrawn from social activities or work activities
  • A decrease in judgment
  • Issues with being able to retrace steps or frequently misplacing things
  • Issues with speaking or writing certain works
  • Difficulty in understanding visual images or struggles with spatial relationships
  • Easy confusion regarding time and place
  • Challenges in completing what are normally familiar tasks
  • Issues with planning or difficulties with solving problem
  • Memory loss that can disrupt everyday life

These are all small warning signs that Alzheimer’s may be forming. While these symptoms do not necessarily mean someone has Alzheimer’s disease, this may let you know that you need to monitor your loved one more, or encourage them to visit their health care provider. There are also many national resources that can help people learn more about Alzheimer’s so that you can get a better idea of whether or not this may be something your loved one is struggling with.

Finding these early warning signs in a loved one is a great way to help them and to start recognizing a potential issue early one. This holiday, remember the warning signs as you interact with your loved ones during this special time of the year.


Eric J. Hall, President & CEO of Healthcare Chaplaincy, Managing Partner, Alzheimer’s Care Specialists

Copyright © 2013, Inc.


Alzheimer’s: Tips to Make Holidays More Enjoyable

(Mayo Clinic) Holidays can be bittersweet for families affected by Alzheimer’s. Try these simple tips to make the holidays less disruptive and more pleasant for everyone.

If you’re like many who are caring for a loved one with dementia, the holiday season may not feel so merry. Memories of better times may surface as reminders of what you’ve lost or what has changed. At a time when you believe you should be happy, you may instead find that stress, disappointment and sadness prevail.

At the same time, you may think that you should live up to expectations of family traditions and how things ought to be. As a caregiver, it isn’t realistic to think that you will have the time or the energy to participate in all of the holiday activities as you once did.

Yet, by adjusting your expectations and modifying some traditions, you can still find meaning and joy for you and your family. Here are some ideas.

Keep it Simple at Home

If you’re caring for a loved one who has Alzheimer’s at home:

  • Make preparations together. If you bake, your loved one may be able to participate by measuring flour, stirring batter or rolling dough. You may find it meaningful to open holiday cards or wrap gifts together. Remember to concentrate on the process, rather than the result.
  • Tone down your decorations. Blinking lights and large decorative displays can cause disorientation. Avoid lighted candles and other safety hazards, as well as decorations that could be mistaken for edible treats — such as artificial fruits.
  • Host quiet, slow-paced gatherings. Music, conversation and meal preparation all add to the noise and stimulation of an event. Yet for a person who has Alzheimer’s, a calm and quiet environment usually is best. Keep daily routines in place as much as possible and, as needed, provide your loved one a place to rest during family get-togethers.

Be Practical Away from Home

If your loved one lives in a nursing home or other facility:

  • Celebrate in the most familiar setting. For many people who have Alzheimer’s, a change of environment — even a visit home — can cause anxiety. Instead of creating that disruption, consider holding a small family celebration at the facility. You might also participate in holiday activities planned for the residents.
  • Minimize visitor traffic. Arrange for a few family members to drop in on different days. Even if your loved one isn’t sure who’s who, two or three familiar faces are likely to be welcome, while nine or 10 people may be overwhelming.
  • Schedule visits at your loved one’s best time of day. People who have Alzheimer’s tire easily, especially as the disease progresses. Your loved one may appreciate morning and lunchtime visitors more than those in the afternoon or evening.

Care for Yourself

Consider your needs, as well as those of your loved one. To manage your expectations of yourself:

  • Pick and choose. Decide which holiday activities and traditions are most important, and focus on those you enjoy. Remember that you can’t do it all.
  • Simplify. Bake fewer cookies. Buy fewer gifts. Don’t feel pressured to display all of your holiday decorations or include a handwritten note with each holiday card. Ask others to provide portions of holiday meals.
  • Delegate. Remember family members and friends who’ve offered their assistance. Let them help with cleaning, addressing cards and shopping for gifts. Ask if one of your children or a close friend could stay with your loved one while you go to a holiday party.

Trust your Instincts

As a caregiver, you know your loved one’s abilities best. You also know what’s most likely to agitate or upset your loved one. Resist pressure to celebrate the way others may expect you to. Remember, you can’t control the progress of Alzheimer’s or protect your loved one from all distress — but by planning and setting firm boundaries, you can avoid needless holiday stress and enjoy the warmth of the season.


By Mayo Clinic staff

© 1998-2016 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER).


Perfect Gifts for Seniors in Assisted Living Facilities

(Ezine) It’s no secret that finding the perfect gift for a senior citizen is a bit difficult, but shopping for a present for someone living in an assisted living facility is a little more tedious. Individuals in long-term care facilities may not need much more than the everyday necessities. However, when it comes birthdays or Christmas presents, they deserve something a little extra special too.

Keep it simple. There’s no need to go overboard with the gifts you buy for an individual living in assisted living facility. In many places, the seniors’ rooms remain unlocked, so you will want something that isn’t extremely valuable in case it gets broken or misplaced

Gifts for Seniors in Long-Term Care Facilities

Here are some gift ideas for those living in nursing homes or other types of long-term residential facilities:

  • Soap, lotions and other toiletries
  • Tissues with decorative holders
  • Box of miscellaneous greeting cards with pre-stamped envelopes
  • Filled picture frames and photo albums
  • Homemade treats (if allowed)
  • Decorative hand towels
  • Lap blankets
  • Phone cards
  • Homemade arts and crafts (from grandchildren)
  • Favorite music on CD
  • Large-print books and puzzles
  • Housecoat and slippers
  • Bed jacket, shawl or nice cardigan sweater
  • New shirts and pants
  • New blanket or afghan
  • Pads of paper and pens to write notes
  • Hats, scarves and gloves
  • Stuffed animals
  • Large dial watch or alarm clock
  • Costume jewelry and hair accessories

Gifts That Keep Giving

There are also many gifts you can give to someone living in an assisted living facility that don’t cost anything more than time. Most often, these mean more than items purchased from a store:

  • Acknowledgement:  Just smiling and saying hello to other residents gives them a feeling of reassurance and respect.
  • Compliments:  Taking notice of a resident’s new haircut or sweater will boost his or her self-esteem.
  • Conversation:  Many residents enjoy talking especially to someone new. Spend a few minutes chatting with several residents; it will make their day.
  • Teach a skill:  Knitting and crocheting are pretty popular at senior housing facilities, so if you have these skills, spend an afternoon with residents who enjoy these crafts too. If possible, bring in some extra yarn and needles or hooks so others can get involved.
  • Reading:  Spend a few hours each week or month reading to those who can no longer see well enough to read.
  • Bring on the music: If you are musically inclined or know someone who is, spend some time each month conducting sing-a-longs with the residents.
  • Activity helper:  Call out numbers for a bingo game or help players with their game cards.
  • Raise money:  Organize a community fundraiser to help raise funds for an assisted living facility; money raised can purchase crafts and other activities.

Final Note

Don’t buy gifts that are heavy or take up a lot of space. There isn’t much room for them. Also, many residents of assisted living facilities don’t have families or friends who visit, so you may want to add them to your shopping lists for birthdays or Christmas. They will certainly enjoy and appreciate being remembered.



© 2016 SparkNET. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.


Holiday Hints for Alzheimer’s Caregivers

(NIH) Holidays can be meaningful, enriching times for both the person with Alzheimer’s disease and his or her family. Maintaining or adapting family rituals and traditions helps all family members feel a sense of belonging and family identity. For a person with Alzheimer’s, this link with a familiar past is reassuring.

However, when celebrations, special events, or holidays include many people, this can cause confusion and anxiety for a person with Alzheimer’s. He or she may find some situations easier and more pleasurable than others. The tips below can help you and the person with Alzheimer’s visit and reconnect with family, friends, and neighbors during holidays.

Finding the Right Balance

Many caregivers have mixed feelings about holidays. They may have happy memories of the past, but they also may worry about the extra demands that holidays make on their time and energy.

Here are some ways to balance doing many holiday-related activities while taking care of your own needs and those of the person with Alzheimer’s disease:

  • Celebrate holidays that are important to you. Include the person with Alzheimer’s as much as possible.
  • Set your own limits, and be clear about them with others. You do not have to live up to the expectations of friends or relatives. Your situation is different now.
  • Involve the person with Alzheimer’s in simple holiday preparations, or have him or her observe your preparations. Observing you will familiarize him or her with the upcoming festivities. Participating with you may give the person the pleasure of helping and the fun of anticipating and reminiscing.
  • Consider simplifying your holidays around the home. For example, rather than cooking an elaborate dinner, invite family and friends for a potluck. Instead of elaborate decorations, consider choosing a few select items.
  • Encourage friends and family to visit even if it’s difficult. Limit the number of visitors at any one time, or have a few people visit quietly with the person in a separate room. Plan visits when the person usually is at his or her best.
  • Prepare quiet distractions to use, such as a family photo album, if the person with Alzheimer’s becomes upset or overstimulated.
  • Make sure there is a space where the person can rest when he or she goes to larger gatherings.
  • Try to avoid situations that may confuse or frustrate the person with Alzheimer’s, such as crowds, changes in routine, and strange places. Also try to stay away from noise, loud conversations, loud music, lighting that is too bright or too dark, and having too much rich food or drink (especially alcohol).
  • Find time for holiday activities you like to do. If you receive invitations to celebrations that the person with Alzheimer’s cannot attend, go yourself. Ask a friend or family member to spend time with the person while you’re out.

Holiday Home Safety Tips

Holiday decorations, such as Christmas trees, lights, or menorahs, should be secured so that they do not fall or catch on fire. Anything flammable should be monitored at all times, and extra precautions should be taken so that lights or anything breakable are fixed firmly, correctly, and out of the way of those with Alzheimer’s disease. Candles should never be lit without supervision. When not in use, they should be put away. Also, try to avoid clutter, especially in walkways, during the holidays. For more home safety tips, visit Home Safety and Alzheimer’s Disease.

Preparing Guests

Explain to guests that the person with Alzheimer’s disease does not always remember what is expected and acceptable. Give examples of unusual behaviors that may take place such as incontinence, eating food with fingers, wandering, or hallucinations.

If this is the first visit since the person with Alzheimer’s became severely impaired, tell guests that the visit may be painful. The memory-impaired person may not remember guests’ names or relationships but can still enjoy their company.

  • Explain that memory loss is the result of the disease and is not intentional.
  • Stress that the meaningfulness of the moment together matters more than what the person remembers.

For more information, visit Helping Family and Friends Understand Alzheimer’s.

Preparing the Person with Alzheimer’s

Here are some tips to help the person with Alzheimer’s disease get ready for visitors:

  • Begin showing a photo of the guest to the person a week before arrival. Each day, explain who the visitor is while showing the photo.
  • Arrange a phone call for the person with Alzheimer’s and the visitor. The call gives the visitor an idea of what to expect and gives the person with Alzheimer’s an opportunity to become familiar with the visitor.
  • Keep the memory-impaired person’s routine as close to normal as possible.
  • During the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, guard against fatigue and find time for adequate rest.

Read about this topic in Spanish. Lea sobre este tema en español.

For More Information About Holidays and Alzheimer’s

NIA Alzheimer’s and related Dementias Education and Referral (ADEAR) Center
1-800-438-4380 (toll-free)
The National Institute on Aging’s ADEAR Center offers information and free print publications about Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias for families, caregivers, and health professionals. ADEAR Center staff answer telephone, email, and written requests and make referrals to local and national resources.

Alzheimer’s Association
1-800-272-3900 (toll-free, 24/7)
1-866-403-3073 (TTY/toll-free)

Alzheimer’s Foundation of America
1-866-232-8484 (toll-free)



Celebrating the Holidays with Dementia

(Alzheimer’s Association) Mixing party time and dementia makes for an interesting brew. People can often become distracted from the spirit of celebration by worrying about reducing a loved one’s anxiety, or protecting everyday routines at events that are anything but routine. This all takes some thinking and planning.

It is worth noting that the holidays celebrate getting through hard times together and prompt us to be compassionate. Thanksgiving reminds us to share gratefully the everyday good things. In winter, holidays like Christmas and Hanukkah bring families together in the spirit of giving and human warmth. New Year’s celebrates letting go of the past to make a better future.

Dementia care relates to this spirit: looking after one another in difficult times, because this honors the best in us. The magic lies in having some fun while we’re at it!

Many families choose to continue long-standing traditions that reassure them family life is larger than dementia. Loved ones with Alzheimer’s may be comforted by familiar patterns and find delight in the vitality of the young. On the other hand, others plan around needs of the person with dementia in order to reduce the risk of frustration and blame.

Here are a few tried and true stress-busters to help temper holiday stress:

  • Consider passing on hosting responsibilities and enjoy the hospitality of friends or family
  • Avoid over-stimulation and over-tiring by eating earlier in the day, and steer clear of long travel
  • Use the buddy system and assign someone familiar to the individual with dementia to shield them from distress and give a break to the primary caregiver
  • Visit the Alzheimer’s Association for more tips for handling holiday challenges at

Gift-Giving Tips for People with Dementia

Early Stage: Individuals may be aware of their problems. Choose gifts that will enhance independence and activity.

  • Tickets to a concert, musical or sporting event
  • A fruit basket, frozen meals or other meals that are healthful but easy to prepare
  • Photo albums or a collage of old family photos

Middle Stage: Since more assistance is needed and the attention span in the individual is shorter, try gifts that focus on organization and the familiar.

  • Gifts that involve sorting and arranging or cutting
  • Picture books featuring celebrities, historical places and nature
  • Taped religious services and music from church services

Late Stage: Capacity to deal with anything complicated is diminished in the later stage, so choose gifts that keep in mind that comprehension and understanding is poor.

  • Memory books or boxes made up of old photos and mementos
  • Visits from well-behaved animals
  • Lap robes, shawls and warm footwear to keep warm with poor circulation
  • Stuffed animals, dolls, or pillows to bring a sense of comfort
  • Hand and body lotion along with a massage

Lastly, be reminded that the holidays are a rest point between past struggles and an uncertain future. Enjoy the moment!


Northern California and Northern Nevada

Copyright © 2016 Alzheimer’s Association®. All rights reserved.


Mayo Clinic Holiday Recipes: Celebrate with Healthy, Festive Fare

(Mayo Clinic) Create a healthy holiday menu with these great-tasting recipes.

The holiday season means get-togethers with family and friends and, of course, food. Mix and match these holiday recipes to put together healthy and festive meals.


Recipe: Artichokes alla Romana

Recipe: Chipotle spiced shrimp

Recipe: Smoked trout spread


Recipe: Cream of wild rice soup

Recipe: Pumpkin soup

Recipe: Roasted squash soup

Recipe: Vegetable, lentil and garbanzo bean stew


Recipe: Ambrosia with coconut and toasted almonds

Recipe: Butternut squash and apple salad

Recipe: French green lentil salad

Recipe: Salad greens with pears, fennel and walnuts

Main Dishes

Recipe: Beef brisket

Recipe: Herb-rubbed turkey au jus

Recipe: Linguine with roasted butternut squash sauce

Recipe: Orange rosemary roasted chicken

Recipe: Shrimp scampi

Vegetable Sides

Recipe: Brussels sprouts with shallots and lemon

Recipe: Creamed Swiss chard

Recipe: Creole-style black-eyed peas

Recipe: Holiday green bean casserole

Recipe: Honey-glazed sweet potatoes

Bread and Muffins

Recipe: Best honey whole-wheat bread

Recipe: Morning glory muffins

Recipe: Popovers

Holiday Desserts

Recipe: Carrot cake

Recipe: Cheese latkes

Recipe: Fruitcake

Recipe: Fruited rice pudding

Recipe: Kugel

Recipe: Lemon cheesecake

Recipe: New England trifle


© 1998-2016 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. All rights reserved.


Alzheimer’s and Dementia Caregiving Tips for the Holidays

(Rutgers University) The holidays can be an especially challenging time for family caregivers of people with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. To help families navigate holiday visits, Rutgers Today spoke with Mary Catherine Lundquist, program director of Care2Caregivers, a peer counseling helpline (800-424-2494) for caregivers of people with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease operated by Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care.

How should families approach traditional holiday gatherings?
Lundquist: If you have a family member with memory loss, the best thing you can do is adjust your expectations. There are so many changes and challenges with Alzheimer’s disease that the key to success at the holidays is being flexible and creative.

Adult children who have one parent with dementia and the other as the caregiver should consider what is in the best interest of each parent when planning events. For example, while children might long to visit their parents with their families on one special day for the sake of tradition, that might be the last thing the caregiver desires. Mom might have been up all night caring for Dad and the house might be disorderly because she is too busy to clean.

Structure and routine are important for a person with dementia. If there is any change – like attending a gathering at another home – he or she could be out of sorts for the next few days, adding stress to the caregiver. Sometimes, it’s best for the loved one to stay at home and receive visits of 30 minutes or less from a small number of guests stretched out over a period of days. Keep the number of guests to a minimum; sometimes even having two extra people in the room can be too much stimulation.

How can caregivers prepare traveling family members for the changes in their loved one?
Lundquist: Talk with your out-of-town family beforehand and let them know that their loved one may be different than last year so they are not shocked by changes. Be specific. Say, for example, ‘He’s not talking a lot’ or ‘She may ask the same questions over and over again’ or ‘He may not know who you are.’ Discuss some behaviors they might witness, such as walking around the house, needing assistance in using the bathroom or being messy when eating.

What are the best ways family members can spend quality time with a loved one during a visit?
Lundquist: Holidays can be sad times for families dealing with memory loss because they realize things and people are not as they used to be. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate the time we have together and make new connections and memories.

When visiting someone with memory loss, bring a bag of tricks: snacks, coloring books, crafts, photographs, memorabilia. There are so many ways we can connect with each other even when a person can no longer talk or remember a shared history. Music – especially singing songs together – is a wonderful way to share an experience. Although people lose the ability to converse, their ability to sing is preserved in a beautiful way. Plus, the holidays present a roster of familiar carols.

Tactile projects, such as coloring or making cookies, are other ways to enjoy time together. Engage loved ones in ways that match their abilities: Perhaps they can hold a bowl or roll dough. It’s even meaningful if they simply sit at the table while others perform the tasks. You also can look at holiday cards together and use the visuals to make small talk.

People with dementia may lose their ability to have a conversation. Guests and caregivers can converse, but should make the loved one feel included even if they don’t respond. Don’t shy away from reminiscing as that can be a comfort to the caregiver. However, refrain from asking the loved one ‘Do you remember?’ or expecting them to give you details from the past. It’s also good to remind the loved one of your name and your relationship to them from time to time.

How should family members initially approach a loved one with dementia?
Lundquist: Enter the room slowly and offer your hand respectfully. Wait for the loved one to take it and respect them if they do not. Introduce yourself by name and relationship. Never ask “Do you know who I am?” If you want to hug them, lean in slowly and read their cues. If they get tense or back up, they are not comfortable. Realize that people who never wanted to be touched may suddenly be interested in holding your hand all the time – and vice versa. Read their cues and be open.

How can family members reduce the stress of caregiving during the holiday?
Lundquist: It’s very isolating to be a caregiver, especially as the illness progresses. Caregivers often do not get out and are lonely – a situation that is compounded by being at home all day with a person who is unable to engage with them. Whatever you can do to brighten their day is appreciated, whether it’s bringing them a meal or, better yet, offering to stay with the person so the caregiver can attend a family gathering or take time for him or herself.

Extend this gift of yourself throughout the year. If you’re an adult child of someone with dementia, offer to stay with a parent each weekend for a few hours to provide relief to a caregiving parent or sibling.


©2016 Newswise, Inc