Karen Cochran Beaulieu

Dear Readers,

As the holidays approach, it is a good time for caregivers to intentionally make them “jolly and bright.” There are specific ways to enhance your loved one’s quality of life during seasonal gatherings.

Of course, your loved one’s stages and behaviors must be a consideration for every event. If there are obvious changes in your person since your guests’ last visit, it is a good idea to send a brief email in advance telling them what to expect and how they can help to make the occasion successful.

Regardless of your specific caregiver situation, the holidays offer many golden opportunities to engage and connect. Focus on holiday traditions and activities that will mean the most to everyone. Playing familiar music at a relaxing volume, storytelling and reminiscing are usually successful. If one-on-one time is more appropriate, sharing a photo album is a good idea.

Never let your loved one sit on the sidelines while the family celebrates around them. The use of sensory elements provides a good solution for group activities. For Thanksgiving particularly, encourage family members to verbally express thankfulness for the person with memory loss and include compliments and affection. Create an aroma game by smelling various dishes and desserts.

Give your loved one the important title of the “official taste-tester” when the turkey or pumpkin pie is served. A blue ribbon or badge would add significance and self-esteem to their task.

Plan your gathering at the time of day when your person is most alert and keep daily routines in place as much as possible. Allowing for a break or rest time during the event might be beneficial for your loved one and give time for guests to be more active.

Self-care is important for caregivers when preparing an event of this size, especially when cognitive impairment considerations are required. Delegate some party tasks, have a friend lead an activity and suggest that guests share in the cooking and clean up. Take a deep breath now and then and “count your blessings.”

If your gathering is from a distance, try Zoom or FaceTime. Plan games and songs rather than trying to have conversations. Send old photographs that will promote long-term memories, cards and holiday greetings to your loved one in advance.

Caregivers deserve appreciation all year long – Happy Thanksgiving!

As the holiday season continues, my column topic will as well. I look forward to sharing Christmas tips next time.

Visit www.moment-making.com to learn more about caregiving and to submit your questions, challenges and successes. Karen Cochran Beaulieu, a resident of Sumter County, is the author of the book, “Moments that Matter, a roadmap for caregivers and their loved ones with memory loss.”

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