Holidays and Alzheimer’s Families

(Alzheimer’s Association) The holidays are a time when family and friends often come together. But for families living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias, the holidays can be challenging. Take a deep breath. With some planning and adjusted expectations, your celebrations can still be happy, memorable occasions.

Familiarize Others with the Situation

The holidays are full of emotions, so it can help to let guests know what to expect before they arrive.

If the person is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, relatives and friends might not notice any changes. But the person with dementia may have trouble following conversation or tend to repeat him- or herself.  Family can help with communication by being patient, not interrupting or correcting, and giving the person time to finish his or her thoughts.

If the person is in the middle or late stages of Alzheimer’s, there may be significant changes in cognitive abilities since the last time an out-of-town friend or relative has visited.  These changes can be hard to accept. Make sure visitors understand that changes in behavior and memory are caused by the disease and not the person.

You may find this easier to share changes in a letter or email that can be sent to multiple recipients. Here are some examples:

“I’m writing to let you know how things are going at our house. While we’re looking forward to your visit, we thought it might be helpful if you understood our current situation before you arrive.

“You may notice that ___ has changed since you last saw him/her. Among the changes you may notice are ___.

“Because ___ sometimes has problems remembering and thinking clearly, his/her behavior is a little unpredictable.

“Please understand that ___ may not remember who you are and may confuse you with someone else. Please don’t feel offended by this. He/she appreciates your being with us and so do I.”

For more ideas on how to let others know about changes in your loved one, join ALZConnected, our online support community where caregivers like you share tips on what has worked for them.

Adjust Expectations

  • Call a meeting to discuss upcoming plans. The stress of caregiving responsibilities layered with holiday traditions can take a toll. Invite family and friends to a face-to-face meeting, or if geography is an obstacle, set up a telephone conference call. Make sure everyone understands your caregiving situation and has realistic expectations about what you can do. Be honest about any limitations or needs, such as keeping a daily routine.
  • Be good to yourself. Give yourself permission to do only what you can reasonably manage. If you’ve always invited 15 to 20 people to your home, consider paring it down to a few guests for a simple meal. Let others contribute. Have a potluck dinner or ask them to host at their home. You also may want to consider breaking large gatherings up into smaller visits of two or three people at a time to keep the person with Alzheimer’s and yourself from getting overtired.
  • Do a variation on a theme. If evening confusion and agitation are a problem, consider changing a holiday dinner into a holiday lunch or brunch. If you do keep the celebration at night, keep the room well-lit and try to avoid any known triggers.

Involve the Person with Dementia

  • Build on past traditions and memories. Focus on activities that are meaningful to the person with dementia. Your family member may find comfort in singing old holiday songs or looking through old photo albums.
  • Involve the person in holiday preparation. As the person’s abilities allow, invite him or her to help you prepare food, wrap packages, help decorate or set the table. This could be as simple as having the person measure an ingredient or hand decorations to you as you put them up. (Be careful with decoration choices. Blinking lights may confuse or scare a person with dementia, and decorations that look like food could be mistaken as edible.)
  • Maintain a normal routine. Sticking to the person’s normal routine will help keep the holidays from becoming disruptive or confusing. Plan time for breaks and rest.

Adapt Gift Giving

  • Encourage safe and useful gifts for the person with dementia. Diminishing capacity may make some gifts unusable or even dangerous to a person with dementia. If someone asks for gift ideas, suggest items the person with dementia needs or can easily enjoy. Ideas include: an identification bracelet (available through MedicAlert® + Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return®), comfortable clothing, audiotapes of favorite music, videos and photo albums.
  • Put respite care on your wish list. If friends or family ask what you want for a gift, suggest a gift certificate or something that will help you take care of yourself as you care for your loved one. This could be a cleaning or household chore service, an offer to provide respite care, or something that provides you with a bit of rest and relaxation.

When the Person Lives in a Care Facility

A holiday is still a holiday whether it is celebrated at home or at a care facility. Here are some ways to celebrate together:

  • Consider joining your loved one in any facility-planned holiday activities
  • Bring a favorite holiday food to share
  • Sing holiday songs and ask if other residents can join in
  • Read a favorite holiday story or poem out loud

The Alzheimer’s Association Can Help

Do you have questions or concerns about your loved one’s changing behavior? The Alzheimer’s Association is here to help.


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

5 Mother’s Day Gifts for Alzheimer’s Caregivers

(HuffPost Healthy Living) As shared in The Shriver Report, three out of five people who take on the enormous task of caring for a loved one who has Alzheimer’s disease are women. And, almost a third of the women who were surveyed reported that they are the primary caregivers for both their children and their elderly parents.

By becoming an Alzheimer’s caregiver, a woman must transition from the role of wife, daughter or sister to caregiver and nurturer for her loved one. Sadly, research indicates that middle-aged women who are experiencing ongoing stress have a higher risk of developing Alzhiemer’s later in life.

This Mother’s Day, take the time to reach out and do something special to acknowledge a woman whom you know is caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease. Whether she is your own mother or just a friend, having support from those around her will be invaluable to her ability to manage the many stresses in her life.

Below are some ways that you can help.

Offer some respite time.

If you live nearby, one of the best gifts you can give is to offer her some time off. Take over some of her caregiving duties for an afternoon, a day or an entire weekend if you can. Even if you aren’t able to provide the care alone, you can at least be there with her to lend a hand and make caregiving easier.

You might also do some research on short-term stays in senior living communities to help her know what options are available. Taking breaks is critical for caregivers so that they can de-stress and take care of themselves for a change.

Connect her to a support group.

Connecting a caregiver to a support group or local workshop doesn’t simply mean that you inform her that the group exists. You need to take the extra steps necessary to help get her there. Give her one less thing to worry about by offering a ride to the meeting or to stay with her loved one while she attends. Support groups are invaluable, as they provide an opportunity to share advice, commiserate and learn from others who have the same concerns, stresses and challenges. These meetings provide a confidential outlet for sharing feelings and receiving comfort.

Tell her about online resources.

Message boards, blogs and chat rooms provide another medium for sharing stories, connecting with others who have similar challenges and learning from one another. She may not have the time to sit down at the computer, but you can help her by listening to her concerns and perhaps even sharing her thoughts or posting questions on her behalf.

To save her time in researching relevant message board threads, you can also identify specific issues she may be struggling with and seek out online resources that may help her. Another way for caregivers to stay informed and feel empowered is to keep abreast of the latest news and research outcomes.

You could also follow the news yourself and print out, email or share the most relevant information so that she doesn’t have to spend that extra time researching.

Honor her by posting a message about her on the Alzheimer’s Association website.

Sharing a story about just how special she is or acknowledging her with a “thank you” will lift her spirits and let her know just how much she is appreciated. Additionally, think about the other caregivers that could be inspired by reading her story and given the extra strength they need to continue their caregiving responsibilities.

Encourage her to journal.

Purchase a journal for her and encourage her to write down her thoughts and feelings about being a caregiver. Journaling is a powerful way for a person to confront their own emotions and begin to process them in a healthy fashion.

Mother’s Day provides the opportunity to show an Alzheimer’s caregiver, especially one who is also a mother, how much she is valued and appreciated. By taking the time to share these resources with her, you will help her realize she is not facing the challenge of Alzheimer’s disease alone. Your support can make a real difference in her ability to cope with stress, remain healthy and continue to provide great care for her loved one.


By Rita Altman, R.N. Senior Vice President, Memory Care & Program Services, Sunrise Senior Living

Copyright © 2016, Inc.


Mother’s Day is May 8: Gifts for People with Alzheimer’s and Their Caregivers

(Alzheimer’s Association) If you have a caregiver or a person with Alzheimer’s on your gift-giving list, we’ve got some suggestions to make your shopping a bit easier.

Gifts for People with Alzheimer’s

In the early stages

Items to help remember things

  • magnetic reminder refrigerator pads
  • Post-It notes
  • baskets or trays that can be labeled within cabinets or drawers
  • a small pocket-sized diary or notebook
  • erasable white boards for key rooms in the house
  • a memorable calendar featuring family photos – write special family occasions such as birthdays and anniversaries

Items to help with everyday tasks

  • a memory phone that can store up to eight pictures with the names and contact information of family and friends automatic medication dispenser that can help the person living with Alzheimer’s remember to take medicine
  • nightlights that come on automatically when it gets dark
  • a clock with the date and time in large type

Items to help keep the person engaged  

  • an outing to a movie, play or concert, sporting event, museum or possibly an organized holiday shopping trip with friends and family
  • favorite musical CDs or CD with compilation of favorite tunes
  • VHS/DVD collection of favorite movies
  • activities such as scrapbooking or other craft projects

In the middle-to-late stages 

Sensory stimulation gifts. Stimulating the five senses may bring back pleasant memories. Give gifts such as:

  • scented lotions
  • a fluffy bathrobe in a favorite color
  • a soft blanket or afghan to keep warm

Clothes. Get comfortable, easy to remove, easily washable clothes such as:

  • sweat suits
  • knits
  • large banded socks
  • shoes with Velcro ties
  • wrinkle free nightgowns, nightshirts and robes

Music. Research shows that music has a positive impact on individuals with Alzheimer’s, bringing them back to good times, increasing stimulation and providing an opportunity to interact with family members. Buy favorite CDs or burn a CD full of musical favorites

Framed photographs or a photo collage. Copy photos of family members and friends at photo centers, insert the names of the people in the photo and put in frames or in a photo album created specifically for that person.

MedicAlert® + Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return®.  Enroll the person in MedicAlert + Safe Return, a 24-hour nationwide emergency response service for wandering and medical emergencies.

Gifts for Caregivers

  • The gift of time. Cost-effective and truly meaningful gifts are self-made coupons for cleaning the house, cooking a meal, mowing the lawn, shoveling the driveway, and giving time off so a caregiver can do something to meet their needs.
  • Gift cards and certificates. Give gift certificates for restaurants, laundry/dry cleaning services, lawn care services, computer/technology support, maid services, and personal pampering services such as massages and pedicures.
  • Books. In addition to giving novels on the caregiver’s “must read” list, there are also a number of books on caregiving such as “The 36-Hour Day” by N.L.Mace and P.V. Rabins; “The Best Friends Approach to Alzheimer’s Care” by V. Bell and D. Troxel; and “Alzheimer’s: A Caregiver’s Guide and Sourcebook,” by H. Gruetzner; and “Coach Broyles’ Playbook for Alzheimer’s Caregivers” by Frank Broyles. Also consider giving book on CD.
  • Digital Video Recorder (DVR). Purchase DVR/TiVo and year’s worth of service so the caregiver can record favorite shows or sports programs he or she may not be able watch in real time due to care responsibilities.

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


Helpful Caregiving Tips for the Holidays

(BrightFocus Foundation) No matter the time of year, caring for someone with Alzheimer’s requires an understanding of the one for whom we care.  As their caregiver, you know them well—the rhythm of their day, what they like, what calms or upsets them.  This understanding is all very important in managing their daily life.  But the holiday season is filled with events that happen just once a year, which can be exciting and heartwarming for many, or can be—for one with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia—confusing, over-stimulating and agitating.

With parties, large family gatherings, and the excitement of preparation, we as caregivers will be more successful in our role if we are ready with a plan for our loved one.  Pre-planning for the holidays, along with modifying our expectations and traditions, can make a huge difference for our loved one, as well as for us as caregivers.

Maybe We Don’t Need to Make So Many Cookies This Year

Is one of your traditions baking lots of cookies during the weeks leading up to the holidays?  Weekend afternoons or late nights, dozens and dozens of cookies, using many old, family recipes?  Those were great times.  But, as good as the memories are, maybe this year, extreme cookie baking is one area to cut back.  It just may be better to bake a few dozen of one or two favorite recipes.

If your care recipient can recall one or two favorites, bake those.  Where possible, include them in the cookie baking process.  Have a good time with it.  If they become unable to finish the whole process, consider that they probably had a great time and let them stop there.  The process is more important than the result.

Cookie baking is just an example of where we may need to modify our expectations of an outcome.  Holiday parties, big family gatherings, church services, shopping, are a few other areas.  And they all, in one way or another, present situations that just may be too much for one with Alzheimer’s.  Before embarking on any of these, think about how much would be enough for your care recipient.  Overall, remember:

  • Only do what you and they can manage, and be okay with that.
  • Choose the traditions and activities that are the most important.  Leave out the rest.
  • Hosting a party?  Maybe a small party will do instead of the huge event from years past.  Opt for catered or take out to round out the food.  Or, consider hosting an event that is potluck.
  • Where possible, have a place where your loved one can take a break from the festivities to rest.
  • If having any visitors during the holiday season, try to keep it to two or three at a time.  Too many at one time can be overwhelming.
  • What is their best time of day?  Schedule any visitors for that time.

Some Seasonal Safety Concerns

Don’t forget a couple of safety matters.  Keep the lighted candles out of the house, as well as the decorations that may be mistaken for edible food.

What About You?

Through it all, remember to take care of you and your holiday too.  To make it a magical season, build some of your own favorite traditions into the season.  It may mean doing it without your care recipient, but either way, be sure you give yourself the gift of the season.  If needed, find someone who can cover for you as caregiver, whether it is for an afternoon or evening, or a few days.

Most important, it is the spirit of togetherness and fun that family and friends value and cherish from year to year.  Make sure you are having fun.  That is what you, your family, and your care recipient, needs most.


Kathleen S. Allen, LCSW, LICSW, C-ASWCM
Eldercare Consultant/Geriatric Care Manager
Senior Care Management Services, LLC

© 2000 – 2014 BrightFocus Foundation. All rights reserved.


Alzheimer’s Association Caregiver Resources Can Help During the Holidays

(Alzheimer’s Association) The Alzheimer’s Association 24/7 Helpline provides reliable information and support to all those who need assistance. Call us toll-free anytime day or night at 1.800.272.3900.

Our 24/7 Helpline serves people with memory loss, caregivers, health care professionals and the public.

Our highly trained and knowledgeable staff can help you with:

  • Understanding memory loss, dementia and Alzheimer’s
  • Medications and other treatment options
  • General information about aging and brain health
  • Skills to provide quality care and to find the best care from professionals
  • Legal, financial and living-arrangement decisions

Our 24/7 Helpline also features:

  • Confidential care consultation provided by master’s level clinicians who can help with decision-making support, crisis assistance and education on issues families face every day
  • Help in a caller’s preferred language using our translation service that features over 170 languages and dialects
  • Referrals to local community programs, services and ongoing support

Call us 24/7: 1.800.272.3900
TDD: 1.866.403.3073


Copyright © 2015 Alzheimer’s Association®. All rights reserved.


Keeping the Happy in Holidays for Families Living with Alzheimer’s

(Alzheimer’s Association) For families living with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, the holidays can sometimes be less than happy and instead filled with anxiety and stress. When adult children travel to visit older parents there are often changes that have been occurring over the time apart. Things like short term memory may be the first symptoms to appear however, judgment, speech, balance and even personality changes may also increase in between visits.

If some family members live nearby and interact with mom and dad regularly the changes may not seem so significant as for family who isn’t around quite as often. The holidays also bring increased anxiety with larger crowds to serve at meal times, more planning and activities spent together, loud conversations and a desire to maintain harmony at any cost.

For a mom with Alzheimer’s who has always taken on meal planning and preparation, the holidays may simply prove to be too overwhelming. As the disease steals the ability to perform daily tasks, doing the grocery shopping, following a recipe or even setting the table may be too complicated with too many steps to remember and follow. For dads who traditionally host the viewing of the holiday football game, crowds of people all talking at once may cause anxiety and even anger as the ability to keep track of conversations decreases.

There are a number of things families can do if they are aware of changes before descending on mom and dad for the holidays. Sharing with friends who might stop by can also help eliminate stress and worry about whether a visit might go well:

Tips to enhance communication with person who has dementia:

  • Always approach the person from the front to say hello or hold a conversation
  • Use name badges for all guests so no one has to remember names and ask everyone to introduce themselves even if it seems silly. “Hi Grandpa, it’s Billy”
  • Address the person with dementia by name or nickname. They may not always remember they are Dad, Uncle, or Aunt.
  • Maintain eye contact
  • Be patient and encourage the person to continue to express themselves even if it’s hard to understand or it takes a long time
  • Avoid criticizing, correcting, and arguing. Be prepared to accept the reality of the person with dementia, whether that is today or 20 years ago on the farm. Who benefits by correcting the person with dementia? Why remind them someone has died if they don’t remember?
  • Be calm and supportive
  • Avoid using negative statements and quizzing (e.g., “You know who that is, don’t you?”)
  • Use short, simple, and familiar words but don’t speak to an adult using childish, cutesy phrases
  • Avoid talking about the person as if he/she weren’t there
  • Try not to use phrases like “remember that?” for recent memories instead reminisce about general family memories. Do we always have pumpkin pie? Instead of “remember that Hanukah when we all went to the cabin?”
  • Instead of television or games, pull out family albums and let the person with dementia share stories and memories

Tips for success at meal time:

  • Suggest a grandchild help out in the kitchen as a way to practice following a recipe and measurement skills
  • Have everyone pick a job to do, even if this is a change for the family who always relied on mom to do everything in preparation for the big meal
  • Try new recipes with foods that are easy to eat, more finger foods and less cutting up of meat
  • Use solid color plates so food can be more easily seen and not compete with flower patterns
  • Offer the role of carving to a new or younger family member as a way to pass the torch while keeping sharp knives out of the hands of someone with dementia
  • Offer sparkling water, non alcoholic wine and beer to all guests. Alcohol is not a good mix with dementia medications, depression and mood swings.
  • Help keep clothes clean and maintain dignity for the person with dementia by suggesting everyone tuck a napkin into their shirt or blouse.

Caregiving is a 24/7 job. The Alzheimer’s Association describes caregiving as the 36 hour day. The responsibility is non-stop.

Caregivers are often managing the household budget, cleaning, cooking, doing laundry, taking care of the children if the person has Younger Onset Alzheimer’s, personal care and hygiene for the person with dementia as well as maintaining their sense of comfort, safety and security, and even sometimes, the caregiver is juggling care with a full time job.

It is exhausting and without a break and/or support, the caregiver will feel the effects physically as well as emotionally. When visitors come from out of town there are many ways they can assist the caregiver.

Tips for helping caregivers:

  • Visitors from out of town can provide much needed respite for the daily caregiver
  • Offer to sit and visit so the caregiver can grocery shop without a sense of vigilance
  • Give the gift of a night out with movie tickets or a sit down dinner at a local restaurant
  • Offer to run errands to the store, the pharmacy, the hardware store
  • Home repair and gardening may have become lesser priorities, offer to rake, clean up, or do simple repairs the caregiver is unable or doesn’t have the time for
  • Take the person with dementia out for coffee or to the hairdresser so the caregiver can get things done at home or simply sit and enjoy the quiet without having to caregive
  • Ask how the caregiver is doing not just the person with the disease
  • Consider using an online scheduling program for helpers like Lotsa Helping Hands

If concerns arise after a visit with family over the holidays, start by talking with siblings. If it’s possible, try and get consensus about what everyone experienced to see if concerns are shared. If there are conflicting opinions, the Alzheimer’s Association can help sort things out. Additionally scheduling a visit with mom or dad’s family doctor to talk together about concerns might be helpful.

There might be medication interactions or vitamin B deficiencies that are contributing to memory issues without signs of dementia so ruling out what might be causing concerns is the best first step. Suggesting a visit to the doctor’s office could actually put mom or dad’s own mind at ease as there are bound to be concerns they haven’t shared with family and friends.

While the holidays should be a time of celebration and being together with friends and family, a little planning ahead may help relieve stress and anxiety for everyone, especially for the person who is seeing things slowly change as the disease progresses. For more tips and support contact the Alzheimer’s Association.

24/7 Helpline
Contact us for information, referral and support.
tel: 1.800.272.3900
tdd: 1.866.403.3073


Copyright © 2014  Alzheimer’s Association®. All rights reserved.


A Holiday Message: Embracing Grief Can Help You Find the Light of Love

(Mayo Clinic with Angela Lunde) For the most part, I love the holidays — gathering with family, sharing food and gifts and being mindful of our blessings.

Yet, I know this is also a time when grief can dwell more intensely in our hearts. It’s important to address grief because it’s such a big part of our lives. And I’m not just talking about sadness. Grief can disguise itself as anger, fear, resentment or a sense of profound helplessness.

We may think we need to chase away grief and other negative thoughts and feelings from our hearts and minds and be more “joyful”. I ask you though to consider embracing whatever you are feeling and experiencing — both negative and positive feelings need attention and belong in the same reality.

By acknowledging and even embracing our grief we begin to remove some of the protective layers that frequently mask the core of who we truly are. When this uncovering happens, there, at our deepest center is a light. A light I call love.

Grief is an organic emotion that at its core is an expression of love. If we love well, there will be grief. Accepting this may open up a bit more space in our hearts for joy. May peace and joy be within each of you this holiday season.

“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”
— Persian poet Rumi


© 1998-2013 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. All rights reserved.


Memory Loss May First Be Noticed During Holiday Family Time

(HealthCentral) The holidays are here. The festivities, the camaraderie, the food! But if you are like me and my brother, you could find the holidays can quickly become disconcerting when you live at a distance from a loved one and return home to find a loved one exhibiting memory issues that you had never seen before.  That was increasingly our experience about a decade ago.

My father had started alerting both my brother and I that Mom was having some memory issues in 2002, but we chalked that up to aging.  We were wrong! Mom had mild cognitive impairment and we just kept missing signs over the next three years that Mom was struggling with something worse.

Using the list of warning signs provided by the Alzheimer’s Association, I’d like to offer some our family’s history in order to help others who might face similar surprises when they get home.

1.    Memory loss that disrupts daily life. Mom wouldn’t let Dad take over managing her prescriptions. She increasingly mismanaged her medications during this period, causing her to often have to go to the emergency room due to major breathing issues caused by her chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

2.    Challenges in planning and solving problems. One time when Dad had to suddenly be hospitalized, Mom drove herself back home. She called me to tell me what the situation was (and told me that she had to call the fire department because she couldn’t get into their house). She was determined to go back to the hospital to spend the night, but had not thought about packing her oxygen (which she needed 24/7) and other medications. I also asked her what she was planning to do with their dog; she told me that she would just leave the dog outside – not thinking about the fact that the forecast put the temperature that night into the low 20s where they lived. Fortunately, Dad was released just a little bit later so she was able to remain at home – and the dog remained inside.

3.    Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure. I remember Mom forgetting how to use the car’s automatic unlock function on her key ring while she was out shopping. She also could not remember how to use the car key to unlock the door. She had to ask someone at the store to come out and help her open her car up.

4.    Confusion with time or place. Mom got to the point where she couldn’t member what city she was in, especially when she travelled and was in a hotel in a different city. Breaking a routine really messed her up.

5.    Trouble understanding visual and spatial relationships. One evening, Mom thought there was a gap between the window frame and my home’s structure and brought it to my attention because she was afraid hot air would come in. I assured her that what she was seeing was the gap between the window screen that wasn’t well placed into the window and that otherwise, the house was well sealed.

6.    New problems with words in speaking or writing. Mom struggled with finding words to use and would lose her train of thought in a conversation. She also rarely was writing anything other than her name.

7.    Misplacing things and losing the ability to replace steps. Mom increasingly lost a variety of things, ranging from remote controls to glasses. It turns out that she started “storing” everything in tissue boxes.

8.    Decreased or poor judgment. Mom, who was not a fashion shopaholic, would go out shopping on a regular basis and end up buying the same outfit over and over and over again. When we cleared out her closet, we found out that she had purchased 7-8 of the same outfits, all in the same size.

9.    Withdrawal from work or social activities. Mom refused to go out to lunch with her girlfriends, even though I bought her a gift card to a local restaurant so she could treat them. She said they just led busy lives and she didn’t want to interrupt.

10.    Changes in mood and personality. Mom regularly lost her normal equilibrium and became blindingly angry at the smallest comment. For a long period, her rage was at my father, but I finally experienced it when she and I had a really minor tiff over dusting a table.


By Dorian Martin, Health Guide

Copyright © 2013 Remedy Health Media, LLC. All Rights Reserved.