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