You know that feeling when someone comes up to you unexpectedly with a huge toothy smile on their face and says, “It’s so good to see you.” Then they tilt their head and say, “So how have you been”? Of course, you answer politely and try with all the brain power you can sum up to remember who this person is. Nothing. Then they ask about your family…by name…. and still, nothing.
Imagine what it’s like to spend your days and nights trying hard to remember people, places and things. The holidays are especially tough in the world of Alzheimer’s Disease. The jovial holiday smiles, strange environments, and people saying, “Remember me? How have you been? When was the last time you saw Aunt Sarah? Do you want sweet potato or green beans? What do you want for Christmas?” Add to that, children running around, loud music and loud voices. It’s no wonder that our loved one doesn’t want to go anywhere and has a bit of a meltdown when placed, in what seems to them, a strange holiday environment. The most helpful thing during the holiday time is to try to see everything from the perspective of your loved one and enjoy them where they are. This will allow you to be attuned to whether the environment is too noisy and causing agitation in an elder allowing you to come to their rescue again by taking them to a quieter place, so they can unwind salvaging what could become an unpleasant outburst.
As close family, friends and caregivers, let’s make a pact this holiday season. Let’s come to their rescue. Step right up and give them a conversational life line. Come to their defense when it’s clear they are having a tough time. It’s not necessary to put words in their mouths but it IS necessary to boost the conversation with names, memories and supporting words. Don’t wait to see what they remember, that’s a recipe for disaster. So, pull up those holiday suspenders, grab some mistletoe and jump right in. Remember how it felt when someone rescued you in a conversation and kindly used the person’s name you forgot in a sentence giving you the opportunity to save face?
While we are at it, let’s make another pact. Let’s listen to our elders. That’s right listen to the same stories from years gone by like it was the first time. Engage in the conversation with special attention to the things that make them happy and gives them peace. Engaged listening will open the conversation to ways to keep them engaged in life. Studies show that when our elders are engaged with the people around them, they are less likely to become depressed and confused. You are the best prescription there is.
At Second Wind Dreams® we are thankful for each and every family member doing all they can to make the lives of their loved ones with dementia better every day.