When you're looking forward to celebrating a big holiday with the whole family it's so easy to get our hopes up that it will be a truly heartwarming occasion. When our loved one with dementia has a melt-down in the middle of the festivities it can be catastrophic for us, too. There goes the wonderful day we've been anticipating for so long.
When it comes to these kinds of occasions, our philosophy is expect and prepare for the worst. You may be pleasantly surprised if it doesn't happen. If it does, then you're ready and you won't be devastated.
Just as we have talked previously about how holiday decorations, glitter and glitz can contribute to the frazzles for someone with dementia, lots of noise and lots of movement can set off a bad reaction faster than most anything else. Add those glittering decorations and piles of gifts and wrapping paper and...bingo! When the brain can't filter and make sense of what's going on it gets overwhelmed. We certainly can't, and don't want to, ask our guests to sit quietly and speak one at a time. What kind of a party is that - especially if there are children present? But, we can keep an eye on our loved one with dementia and be ready to jump in as soon as we see signs that things are beginning to build up to a crisis.
If the gathering is to be at your house, nominate someone who knows you and your home well to be your surrogate host if you have to leave the party for a little while. Be sure to have your dementia person's room ready to use. Put no decorations or other new items in the room. Don't use that room to pile coats. Be sure that no one will be trying to use the bathroom that's accessed through this room.
If you own one, have a "white noise" machine in this bedroom ready to use.
If you are going to be visiting at someone else's home, ask for a bedroom you can use if necessary. Bring your white noise machine and a favorite blanket or soft throw along.
When you see your loved one building up a bad head of steam, don't even try to handle things in the middle of the party. Use whatever excuse you need to get him into that quiet room. Sit there together until calm returns. You might choose to give him a light back massage, or perhaps give her hair a soothing brush. Choose the kind of light touch that you know from experience will help. Regardless of how you feel, keep your voice soothing, your movements slow, and don't leave him there alone.
If you catch the pending crisis early a half hour or so in the quiet room may be enough to permit you and your loved one to rejoin the party and try again.
For more information about how the caregivers at HeartWarming Care can help your family with your home care needs, call (253) 460-1574. We are a home care agency providing quality and affordable home care in Tacoma WA and the surrounding communities.