This month, we sat down with Our Family Home’s Marybeth Cartmille to talk about preparing for the holidays. She shared with us a few ways families affected by memory disease can make small shifts to reduce stress and focus more of your time on creating meaningful memories with those you love.
Savoring Meaningful Moments
Overall, Marybeth offers two important pieces of advice for families: First, have a plan. There’s a lot going on over the holidays, so it’s important to plan ahead. This gives you time to think about how to adapt activities and social gatherings with your loved one in mind.
Secondly, she encourages families to focus on the little moments. While certain traditions or activities may no longer be feasible, you can still find special ways to connect and create memories. Look for the little things and enjoy those.
In November, Marybeth will be co-presenting on Failure Free Holidays and gave us a sneak peek at a few of the tips they will discuss.
- Prepare yourself for a change of plans. Individuals with memory disease can get overwhelmed or disoriented easily, so it’s important to be open-minded about changing plans. Marybeth suggests keeping outings brief, focusing on smaller gatherings or encouraging one-on-one visits. She also recommends catering around their best time of day. “Rather than Christmas dinner, it might be better to do brunch or a lunch-time meal,” she added.
- Be open to new traditions. While it can be hard to let go of a long-standing tradition, it’s important to also consider new ones. Or try modifying existing ones. Decorate store bought cookies if baking them from scratch is too overwhelming. Drive around to look at decorations rather than putting up your own. Marybeth also suggests prioritizing traditions. Pick one or two that have the most meaning to you and focus on those.
- Provide updates to family and friends. Marybeth recommends providing updates to family or friends before they visit. Be open about where they are with the disease and honest about what your loved one can and cannot do or that certain behaviors aren’t uncommon. A lot can change in a short amount of time and these small updates can have significant impact on how well the visit goes.
- Set realistic expectations. A loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia may not be able to participate in activities that they once adored and they may only be able to hold their attention on a task for a short time. “I encourage people to consider breaking things down into smaller tasks. At Our Family Home, we know our residents love to help make cookies. We try to keep them engaged by breaking the project down into specific tasks and giving them really specific things to do,” adds Marybeth.
- Focus on the process not the outcome. Spending time with residents and going through the Alzheimer’s journey with her own father-in-law, Marybeth emphasizes this advice, “Don’t allow yourself to worry about the end result. Enjoy the small moments and joy of doing a project together and focus less on what it will look like in the end. It’s the time together that counts.”
If you have a loved one suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia or know someone who does, we hope you will also consider joining us on November 19 from 5:30 – 7 p.m., as we partner with Buckeye Family Home Care and Vitas Healthcare to host a workshop on Failure Free Holidays. Workshop details and registration information can be found here.