Planning for the Holidays (2)

Plan for Success this Holiday Season

By Cheryl Freed, Vice President of Learning and Support

The older I get, the more I realize the holiday season is less about how many parties I can plan or how many cookies I can bake and more about the quality time I get to enjoy with my family and loved ones. If your loved one is living at Kemper House, you may be wondering how to plan a meaningful and successful holiday season with them. First – take a deep breath! Kemper House is here to help you honor your favorite holiday traditions and have a successful holiday with your loved one, even if it is not on the actual holiday.

Whatever you decide, think about creating something that will be calm and relaxing. Your loved one should be the focal point and be included as much as possible. The two most popular options are taking your loved one out or planning something at Kemper House. When making plans, use the following guidelines based on the needs and abilities of your loved one living with dementia:

Taking them out – Leaving Kemper House can be stressful for some of our residents. Some do very well with it so if you have been regularly taking them out, please feel free to continue. If this will be the first time you are taking your loved one outside of Kemper House, please talk to the staff so we can best prepare you and your loved one for success. We are big fans of short car rides to see Christmas lights. This gets you and your loved one out and about without a specific destination in mind and the added stress of changing locations. If you are thinking about taking them to a restaurant or a party, please follow these tips:

• Figure out the best time for success and have everyone else in the family adapt. Is it during a time when your loved one takes a nap?
• Figure out the best place for success. Consider noise levels, access to bathrooms, food choices, and skills needed to participate in the event.
• Think about the right size group. Too many people talking raises the noise level and comprehension is much more challenging. This can cause more stress and anxiety.
• Think about the right people. People who will listen to your tips about how to have a good interaction, people who will help keep the focus on your loved one.
• Think about the best activity for your loved one.
• Make sure you are reading the cues that your loved one is giving off, ie. do they need help, a drink of water, something to eat, or it is time to go?

Staying in at Kemper House – We have several rooms and areas you can reserve to get together with your loved one. Please call the front desk for more information and to reserve a space if you would like to celebrate at Kemper House. Here are some ideas to ponder:

• Bring in your loved one’s favorite dessert to eat with them while listening to their favorite holiday music.
• Bring one of their favorite ornaments or some pictures and talk about the memories.
• Decorate their room or door together.
• Attend our Cocoa & Cookies Kemper Cafe (December 7th at KHS & December 8th at KHHH).
• Sit by one of the beautiful Christmas trees we have throughout Kemper House.
• If several friends and family members are in town, come in small groups and focus on the resident. Save your big group time for other get-togethers.

If family members have not seen their loved one in a while, gently prepare them ahead of time and remind them of ways to interact. Set them up for success and create a visit that will be meaningful to both your family and your loved one. Help them enjoy the visit by teaching them:

• The changes of cognitive decline they will see and how to adapt.
• To introduce themselves and not to be offended if your loved one doesn’t recognize them.
• To bring a story from the past – a memory to discuss, a memento that may be recognized.
• To steer away from open ended questions such as “How are you?” or “What’s going on?”.
• To sit and speak in front of the person and to listen and be patient.

Thoughtful preparations need to go into planning for the holidays when your loved one has dementia. Remember no matter what you do, it may be a disruption to your loved one’s routine and they may not be as amenable as you would want them to be. Stay flexible and be positive. We want you and your loved one to have a successful holiday. Wishing you the best in whatever you do to celebrate the season. Happy Holidays from all of us at Kemper House!

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