“The holidays can be a tough time of year for caregivers. The business of the season, gatherings with friends and family and the fact that many day programs close present challenges.
To caregivers, I have some simple advice for you: Plan ahead to help someone with dementia and yourself get the most out of the holidays. Nobody is going to do it for you.”
Sharon Rozsel, caregiver for her mother
The Alzheimer Society of Ontario knows that for people with dementia and their caregivers, the holidays can bring stress, sense of loss, tension and sadness. To help ease these difficulties and make the most of the holiday season, we have created a new holiday page on our website, complete with tips and other resources. Each week, we will add a tip sheet on timely topics such as:
- Gift ideas for people with dementia.
- Making the house safe for someone with dementia.
- Visiting someone with dementia over the holidays.
- How to make the holidays special for someone with dementia.
- How caregivers can better care for themselves.
Here’s a sample:
If you are gift shopping for someone in the early stage of the disease, give a present that will encourage the maintenance of certain abilities and slow the progression of the disease. If they are in the later stages, look for gifts that provide sensory stimulation and help bring back pleasant memories, like a CD of their favourite music.
The world is always beckoning for us to leave the comfort and safety of home, whether it’s to visit friends, family or see a new place. For those with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers, this need is no different, although it comes with challenges.
Susan Bithrey was one caregiver who travelled a lot with her husband Reg, even after he was diagnosed with dementia. Although they loved living in Thunder Bay, they had many reasons to leave: family in Alberta and Southern Ontario, a medical specialist in Toronto and post-retirement wanderlust to name a few.
“Mostly I just used common sense: watch carefully, don’t overwhelm him with too much input, and rely on the kindness of strangers if necessary,” Susan recalls.
When Reg was in the early stages of the disease, it wasn’t so difficult to manage. “I kept a bit sharper eye out for possible problems,” Susan explains. “ I always packed a list of his meds, my legal documents, and made sure to have contact numbers for relatives, doctors, etc. in case of an emergency.”
But it became more difficult when Reg’s condition deteriorated. Susan became much more cautious about travel, choosing destinations that were familiar not only to him, but to herself so that she could navigate easily if something went wrong. They visited cities where they had relatives or good friends for back up.
To keep travelling fun and incident-free, Susan offers the following advice:
- Inform the hotel concierge/front desk that your travel companion has Alzheimer’s disease and provide them with an information package with his description, a photo, names he responds to and his preferred places of interest.
- Always take note of what she is wearing.
- On long car trips, stop frequently and take a brisk stroll for some exercise.
- For airport and highway restrooms, use family washrooms whenever possible. If not, try to find one with only one exit.
- Even familiar places can look strange. Take time to reintroduce her to the environment by altering your routine as little as possible.
- Choose activities and places she might enjoy, such as an art gallery or a conservatory, which stimulate the senses but also have security staff at exits
How do you cope travelling with someone with dementia? Share your story below.
Visit our website to find more advice for travelling.