During the holidays, many of us look forward to family traditions, excitement, and joy. But what if your loved one is living in a senior living community and is living with memory loss? Can the holidays still be joyful? With a little preparation and compassion, of course they can be! Here are some ways that you can make visits during the holidays enjoyable for everyone. No matter what you are planning, two key themes to remember are “comfort and joy.”
Please note: If during the holidays your family begins to contemplate senior living communities, this guide may offer support, answer questions you may have, and ease anxiety as you explore all the options.
Comfort and Joy
When we feel comfortable, we all feel more at ease and are more receptive to those around us. For our loved ones who live in memory care neighborhoods, ensuring everyone is comfortable and relaxed will help ensure a more enjoyable experience. Here are some tips to help you set up your visit.
Planning Your Visit
Timing: Make sure your visit is timed when it is optimal for your loved one. In LCB’s Reflections Memory Care Neighborhoods, we find that many residents benefit from visits earlier in the day, as they grow tired and can be overstimulated later in the day.
Space: Check with the community’s Directors to see when engagement programs are scheduled so you’ll know if you should visit in a common area, attend a community event, or in a private room.
Length: Visits can be equally enjoyable and exhausting, so keeping your stay short and sweet may be best. As a general rule, an hour timeframe is a good amount of time for a visit.
Now that you’ve made your visitation plan, here are some helpful hints for setting–and managing–your expectations.
Focus on the Positive
Feel free to reminisce about days gone by! Even those facing memory loss can often appreciate a story or anecdote from the past. Include your loved one in the conversation and give them time to respond when you ask questions. You might be surprised by their answers and could even learn something new about your family.
Try not to have an “agenda” but instead go with the flow. Even if the conversation goes off-topic, reassure your loved one that he/she is being heard and their opinions are appreciated. Everyone wants to be seen and feel safe.
Celebrate the Holiday
Good news–holiday fun has no bounds! Bring your family’s favorite traditional foods, drinks, and music with you to celebrate. A holiday playlist like this one could be a great place to start. It is chock full of holiday classics, which may resonate better than any new pop holiday songs. You can also bring gifts, but check with the community Director beforehand to make sure your gift is safe for the community. For example, candles or beautiful-looking but poisonous plants are not allowed, nor are wreaths with fake berries. (If you have questions, just ask!)
Support and Encouragement
Keep in mind that your visit is ultimately to have a pleasant visit and spend time together. Asking questions like “Do you remember me?” can be confusing, so skip it and avoid the stress. Instead of correcting your loved one, simply reassure, smile, and move on. Hand-holding is another way to soothe, connect, and show appreciation.
Remember, the main goal is to enjoy your time together. We know this time may be difficult, but by managing your expectations you can revel in the simple moments of holiday goodness.