As we move into the holiday season, I think often of my mother Frances, who went through her last holidays with dementia. I wanted to share the season with her in ways that felt safe, comfortable, and honoring so I gradually developed these tips.
- When you’re in a group, help the person with dementia feel safe and comfortable by having a trusted friend or family member stay beside him or her, explaining the proceedings and fielding questions from others, as needed.
- Encourage people to say their name and maintain eye contact when conversing with the person who has dementia.
- Make sure the person can come and go as needed. Create a quiet space where he or she can rest — or appoint a caring person to drive your loved one home when he tires of the festivities.
- Have something special for them to look at, like a family photo album or a favorite magazine.
- Choose background music that is familiar to them, music of their era played in a style they resonate with.
- Prepare some of their favorite foods.
Most of all, appreciate them for who they are right now.
Deborah Shouse, author of Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey