The excitement of the holiday season can become stressful for anyone: from shopping for gifts and cooking lavish meals, to organizing get togethers and traveling, it’s easy to become overwhelmed during the holiday season. For those with memory problems, the holidays can be difficult to keep up with.
If you’ll be spending time with a loved one with memory problems this holiday season, you have the power to make the activities easier and more enjoyable. The following tips can help both them and you appreciate your time together this winter:
1. Be patient.
With so many people to talk to, folks with memory problems may forget what they’ve already said to each person. If you find your loved one repeating a story they’ve already told you, be patient. Instead of embarrassing them (don’t ask them if they don’t remember just telling you that story – they probably don’t, and it may hurt their feelings), gently let them know you’ve heard their story before. Try a gentle yet non-accusatory statement, such as “That’s right – I think I remember you telling me about that!”
2. Make sure they take their medications.
Between traveling, the excitement of reconnecting with loved ones and eating at different times than normal, it’s not surprising that older adults with memory problems risk forgetting to take their medications. Find out what medications they are taking and when, so you can remind them in case it slips their mind.
3. Help them remember names.
It’s possible that your loved one won’t remember the names of everyone at your holiday gatherings. Don’t be afraid to re-introduce them to help them remember their names or relations. For example, saying “This is your nephew, Simon,” will help bring context to their interactions while making sure they aren’t in the dark about who they are celebrating with. If possible, repeat the person’s name multiple times to try to help them remember it.
4. You don’t always need to bring them back to reality.
Some people with memory problems may talk about a deceased spouse, former career or other previous life event as if they are not part of the past. Instead of correcting them (“Don’t you remember that your spouse is no longer with us?”), try asking questions, such as “What is he like?” and “Why did you choose that career path”? This will allow them to happily express themselves and relive the memories that they still hold dear.
5. Keep your thoughts short and to-the-point.
To help your loved one easily follow the conversation, keep sentences short and to the point. For example, instead of rattling of a list of activities for the day, simply let them know what the current activity is. This will make it easier for them to remember what you said and respond appropriately.