MILWAUKEE — While holidays can be a joyous time for many families, they can be challenging for families affected by Alzheimer’s. The current COVID-19 crisis is adding even more complexities that can feel overwhelming for many families impacted by Alzheimer’s.
While Alzheimer’s and dementia does not increase the risk of COVID-19, dementia-related behaviors, increased age and common health conditions that often accompany dementia may increase risk.
To help families navigate these challenges and provide a meaningful and enjoyable holiday season, the Alzheimer’s Association is offering tips to help families plan appropriately for both in-person or virtual celebrations.
Tips for in-person holiday celebrations: consider smaller gatherings this year. If possible, opt for large, open settings that allow for social distancing; encourage attendees to follow safety protocols during the celebration, including hand washing, and the use of hand sanitizer and masks, as appropriate; gatherings that last longer pose more risk than shorter gatherings so shorten the celebration this year; encourage all those in the small group to be transparent about any concerns, illnesses and expectations prior to your gathering. It will put everyone at ease and allow for someone to opt out if they aren’t comfortable; gatherings with attendees who are traveling from different places/states pose a higher risk than gatherings with attendees who live in the same area; focus on what is enjoyable for the person living with Alzheimer’s.
If they get overwhelmed in large groups, a small quiet gathering may be preferable. If evening confusion and agitation are a problem, turn a holiday dinner into a holiday lunch or brunch; if gathering at a favorite restaurant for holiday get-togethers is a tradition, consider having the meal catered. Meal catering and delivery have become the new normal for many restaurants during the current pandemic. Appoint a designated meal server to serve the food to avoid multiple people touching serving utensils and utilize the Alzheimer’s Association 24/7 Helpline 800-272-3900. Speak confidentially with master’s-level care consultants for decision-making support, crisis assistance and tips to manage the holidays.
Tips for virtual holiday celebrations: schedule a FaceTime, Skype or Zoom call with loved ones and invite other family members to participate. Lead a discussion about your favorite holiday memories or mishaps (the year the turkey burned) or sing favorite holiday songs; make plans to prepare loved one’s favorite holiday meal or dessert. Drop it off on one day or space out deliveries over the holiday season; indoor gatherings generally pose more risk than outdoor gatherings. If an extended indoor holiday celebration seems ill-advised, consider gathering immediate family for a neighborhood walk to soak in the season — just remember to bundle up.
If a loved one lives in a facility, consider a greeting card shower — mail a card every day or every other day leading up to the holidays. Mail is a highlight for many adults who are unable to see family in person.