This Holiday Season, The Alzheimer Society of Ontario Recommends Making Your List and Checking it Twice

"You have to plan ahead to help someone with dementia get the most out of the holidays. Nobody else is going to do it for you or for them."

Sharon Roszel, Caregiver for her mother.

TORONTO, Nov. 28, 2013 /CNW/ - The Alzheimer Society of Ontario knows that "the most wonderful time of the year" may not be so for the spouses, adult children and in-laws providing care for the 200,000 Ontario seniors living with Alzheimer's disease or another dementia. Stress, sense of loss, tension, confusion or sadness may not sound like holiday themes, but many face these issues. "For a family dealing with Alzheimer's, the holidays are often filled with stressful challenges," says Kathy Hickman, Education Manager at the Alzheimer Society of Ontario. "But with the right approach, the season can be smooth and enjoyable for everyone."

When spending time with family members or friends living with Alzheimer's disease or dementia this holiday season, the key to success is preparation. The Alzheimer Society of Ontario is offering these easy tips and tools to help make festivities as stress-free as possible. 

Holiday downloads
A series of helpful and seasonal tip sheets are available for download at alzheimer.ca/on/holiday-support . They cover topics such as holiday gift-giving, how to ensure a safe and secure home environment for a person with dementia, and how to make the most of visiting someone in a long-term care home over the holidays.

Sneak a peek!
Here's an advance taste of some of the helpful Alzheimer Society of Ontario tips:

If you are bringing the party home
When reuniting with extended family and friends, some of them may no longer be familiar to the person living with memory loss. To prevent difficulties:

  • Limit the number of people. Crowds can be confusing for people with dementia.
  • Show pictures of the guests and talk about the relationship ahead of time.
  • Send an email to help prepare visitors so they understand the progression of the disease. Ask them to wear name tags.
  • Don't forget the children. Give them time to ask questions and to understand and accept any changes to traditional activities.
  • Make sure you have a quiet room at home where the person with dementia can rest in if necessary.

If you are preparing a visit to a long-term care home
Remember, it's not about quantity but quality. To ensure a good visit:

  • Try not to disrupt the routine. Ask about the home's plans and how you can best participate.
  • Come in several small groups over an extended period of time, rather than one large one.
  • Reading holiday cards, sharing special memories or singing a song together can provide comfort and a feeling of togetherness.
  • The person you are visiting may not like being the centre of attention; why not bring a box of chocolates to share with residents and staff members?

Will "you" have a holiday?
The season is bound to be nostalgic for everyone. Remember, there is no right or wrong way to handle the situation. To care for yourself:

  • Allow extra time for everything; you may feel fragile and want to rest or gather your thoughts at one time or another.
  • Find ways of adapting traditions to new situation; if you can't attend the usual holiday concert, take a walk in the park with holiday music on your mobile device and find joy in that moment.
  • If something has importance and real meaning to you, don't give it up; ask for help.

Make your list, check it twice
Keep a list of these Alzheimer Society of Ontario tools that may be useful during the holidays.

Finding Your Way
A person with dementia may go missing for many reasons. They may feel uncertain and disoriented in a new environment or want to escape from noisy or busy surroundings. Finding Your Way is a program that offers practical advice on how to lessen the risk of going missing, and what to do if they do occur. www.findingyourwayontario.ca

Shifting Focus
A change in routine can be disorienting and trigger agitation. The "Shifting Focus" guide is meant to help family members, friends and caregivers of people with dementia understand behaviours and actions, and how to communicate during challenging behaviours. www.shiftingfocusontario.ca

Telehealth Ontario
Telehealth Ontario can connect family caregivers of people with dementia to support, advice, and referral when the local Alzheimer Society or other organizations are closed. The free service is available by dialing 1-866-797-0000.

Also, make a list of doctors and pharmacies that are open during the holidays in case of emergencies.

About the Alzheimer Society of Ontario
The Alzheimer Society of Ontario and its network of local Societies across the province offer Help for Today through programs and services for people living with Alzheimer's disease and other dementias and Hope for Tomorrow… by funding research to find the cause and the cure. www.alzheimerontario.ca

SOURCE: Alzheimer Society of Ontario

For further information:

Pascale Guillotte
Director, Marketing and Communications
Alzheimer Society of Ontario
416 847-8922
pguillotte@alzheimeront.org
www.alzheimerontario.ca

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