For many families, holidays are a time to gather, make memories together, and celebrate. When a loved one who is suffering from Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia is living in a memory care home, it is important that families be mindful of that person’s condition. Recognize the different ways that they can still celebrate, and include loved ones on holidays, and other special days. Even if it means they are unable to take them from the facility for the special occasion.
It’s natural for us to try to make it possible for our elderly relatives to attend holidays and family functions. Unfortunately, for most residents, it can be quite difficult for this to happen without overwhelming and confusing them. As much as our hearts want them to join, in reality it may not be what is best for them. The following are some of the most important factors to consider when planning to include them in our family functions.
Will leaving the facility cause your loved one unnecessary and increased confusion or anxiety? Will they understand why they are returning to the facility when the time to take them home comes? Oftentimes, someone suffering from memory issues is unable to enjoy time spent in an environment with large crowds of people. The amount of noise can cause them to become overstimulated very easily. Will you be able to minimize or control these risk factors during the outing?
Is The Location Safe and Accommodating?
Many seniors suffer from physical limitations that must be taken into consideration when planning any type of outing. Are there stairs? Will they be near a restroom? Does the location have handrails and other safety devices available for use? Is the location accessible and safe for wheelchairs or walkers? Is there a quiet space available for the resident if they become tired or just need some down time?
A majority of memory care residents are dependent on prescription medications ordered by their physician(s). When taking a resident out for the day, the responsibility of assisting with medications falls on the family. Ensuring that the medications are given properly, and at the correct time, is critical. If a family member forgets to give the medications, the resident could be severely negatively impacted.
Personal Care Needs
Some memory care residents suffer from incontinence issues with both their bladder and bowels. They may need assistance with this problem while out with their loved ones. This can sometimes be an issue if the resident does not feel comfortable allowing those they are with to assist. Or if the family member is uncomfortable themselves providing this care. Some individuals need assistance in other ways that require a certain amount of supplies and knowledge. Not having the supplies, or experience in providing this care can cause stress and anxiety for all involved.
Open communication with the facility staff is very beneficial in determining whether or not your loved one’s current condition would allow for a safe and enjoyable outing. The staff will be able to make a recommendation based on their observations and interactions with the resident in the days and hours leading up to the possible outing.
Other Ways To Include Loved Ones
Identifying that your loved one may not be able to leave the facility on important days such as holidays, birthdays, and other important events, doesn’t mean that they have to miss out entirely. There are other ways of including them from the comforts of their home in the memory care facility. Ideas that might work in your situation include:
The Power of Technology
We are living in a time when technology is keeping families together more than ever. With the limitations and precautions facilities must enforce due to the current pandemic, families are not able to come into the facilities and visit like they have in the past. This has been a difficult and heartbreaking change for all assisted living and memory care facilities. It is always an option to ask for the facility staff to assist your loved one to allow for you to share the special occasion via video or audio through a device. This will give you and your loved one an opportunity to connect and share those special moments from a distance. If this is not an option, a simple phone call can sometimes go a long way.
If possible, deliver decorations and other holiday reminders to the facility to be used in your loved ones room. Spreading some holiday cheer in this way can help your loved one to not only remember the holiday, but feel the holiday spirit whether they are able to attend special events or not. If possible, bring in decorations from their own home that they lived in previous to moving to the facility. Familiar objects can sometimes help the resident recall holidays in years past.
If your loved one benefits from not attending a holiday or family gathering, be sure to take pictures of the event and send them to them. Receiving mail is the highlight of the day for many residents living in a facility. Opening a letter with pictures and notes to remind them who is who and what the celebration was for can be helpful as well. When pandemic restrictions are lifted for facilities, you can take the photographs in and look at them with your loved one and recall the day’s events.
If you are unable to take your loved one home or out to a family get together for a holiday, you can make arrangements with the facility staff to have a window visit during the pandemic restrictions. Although it is not even close to being as personal and enjoyable as a normal visit to see them, it will still give everyone involved the opportunity to be together in the space place.
Although nothing can ever replace the time we spend together with our families, it is important to acknowledge when leaving the facility environment where your loved one feels safe and comfortable may no longer be an option. Finding ways to overcome this reality can be difficult, but at Gables we will help you to find ways to stay connected, and not feel guilty as many family members do, if you can no longer take your family member home for special occasions. If you would like more information about how to plan for holidays and other special events with your loved one in assisted living or memory care, please call us at 208.357.3323.