The Best Holiday Activities for Seniors with Alzheimer's
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The holidays are quickly unfolding and while they bring joy and a time of reflection, they can also be enormously stressful for the family and caregivers to someone with Alzheimer's. How to make the holidays meaningful for a loved one with dementia can be challenging.

As always, as caregivers, our job is to meet the one with dementia where they are. We are always learning how to care for someone with Alzheimer's or another form of dementia and have to be prepared to simplify our expectations and prepare for the unexpected.

With the holidays quickly unfolding before us, it can be particularly tricky for the caregiver to navigate what are fun and enjoyable activities for their loved one with Alzheimer’s. All activities should be approached with the understanding that all situations are fluid and some may come to an end even before they have begun.

There are some activities that may enliven the person with dementia and even evoke years gone by and cherished memories. Find activities that are met with enthusiasm and create new traditions around them.

Listed below are some holiday activities that can be as simple and undemanding as you want them to be:

  1. Bake holiday treats. Be elaborate or keep it simple. You could prepare cookie dough and have it cut and ready for decorations. If baking the cookies is too much for your loved one or you no longer have time, buy premade cookies to frost together.
  2. Enjoy holiday movies. and music together. Have holiday movies at the ready and curl up on the couch for a cozy night in.
  3. Listen to music. Holiday or not, have music set to play that makes your loved one happy.
  4. Get crafty. Make garlands of popcorn or colored paper. Or spice things up and make pomanders; you know— the aromatic orange or apple studded with cloves to infuse the holiday with evocative hints of warm holiday pasts.
  5. Reminisce. Make a warm beverage of your choosing and go through an old family album with your loved one; perhaps a long-ago memory will emerge.
  6. Savor holiday events and concerts. Some may be able to enjoy a holiday concert or performance. Be prepared to leave early or redirect your loved one if they start feeling agitated.
  7. Have small family gatherings. It’s important to continue to include loved ones with dementia in the family, as simply being around those who love them can have positive benefits. Keeping gathering small can help you avoid overwhelming your loved one.
  8. Go out in nature. Head to a small nearby park or somewhere your loved one always enjoyed.
  9. Admire Christmas lights. Drive around the neighborhood and enjoy the Christmas light decorations that neighbors are exhibiting for your viewing pleasure.
  10. Build a snowman. And last but not least, should the season bring snow your way, put on your hats and scarves, grab those mittens, and go outside and together make a snowman or woman! Make sure your loved one is properly clothed and that you’ve assessed any fall risks ahead of time.

Finally, be sure that you have the support you need to manage holiday stress and caregiving this season, so that you can partake and enjoy the festivities. Ask your friends as family for support to make things as easy for yourself as you can and to avoid caregiver isolation. Let the people around you know what and how your loved one is doing and how they can support you during these holidays.

Festive Holiday Breakfast Recipe: Sourdough “Eggnog” Vanilla French Toast

The month of December conjures up the welcome smell of baking spices and coziness. There isn’t a better way to spend a leisurely morning over a plate of French toast, fragrant with nutmeg. The option of toffee-flavored stevia lends a subtle nuttiness to the batter while the pomegranate seeds add flavor, texture, fiber and antioxidants.

Why choose sourdough? Sourdough bread is not only delicious, but it is easier for most to digest because during the fermentation process some of the phytic acid is eliminated. Phytates are anti-nutrients that bind minerals together so that they are not able to be absorbed into the body.

Prep time: 5 minutes + at least 15 minutes to soak

Cook time: 8 minutes

Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • 4 medium pieces of sourdough bread (cut in half)
  • 2 eggs (large)
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk (out of a box or carton)
  • 6 drops toffee flavored stevia drops (optional)
  • ? tsp ground nutmeg
  • ? tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (optional)
  • 1/8 tsp sea salt
  • 1-2 tbsp coconut oil or cooking spray for greasing the skillet, if necessary
  • 4 tbsp real maple syrup
  • 4 tbsp pomegranate seeds

Directions

  1. In a bowl, combine all ingredients except the sourdough bread and whisk together until smooth. You can also use a blender to incorporate the ingredients together and smooth out the eggs.
  2. Pour the mixture into a rectangular pan and add the slices of the sourdough bread. Let the bread sit in the mixture for at least 15 minutes and up to 3 hours
  3. Heat a medium-sized non-stick skillet to medium-high heat or use a regular medium-size sauté pan and add one tablespoon of coconut oil and heat to medium-high heat.
  4. Place two pieces of the bread at a time into the pan. Cook for two minutes, or until a light golden color. Flip over and cook for another one minute and 30 seconds. Remove the toast from the pan and put onto a plate and loosely cover with a piece of tin foil. Repeat the step with the remaining two pieces of toast.
  5. Place two pieces of toast onto two plates and top with maple syrup and pomegranate seeds. Serve immediately.

May the love flow for you and yours this holiday season!

Resources

Reducing Holiday Stress for Alzheimer’s Families

Learn more about our Alzheimer's and dementia services here: http://www.hyhjj.cn/alzheimers-dementia-care

About the Author(s)

As a Volunteer Caregiver to the Zen Hospice Project and a Course Manager at the CareGivers Project, Audrey Meinertzhagen is passionate about improving the standards of care for older adults and educating caregivers on the principles of mindfulness and self-care.

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