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Alzheimer's and the holidays: Tips from the Alzheimer's Assn.

November 19, 2008 | 12:02 pm

Even at the best of times, holiday celebrations can bring stress as well as pleasure. When a member of the family has Alzheimer's disease or some other form of dementia, such gatherings present extra challenges and need more careful planning. The Alzheimer's Assn. California Southland Chapter has a booklet at its website that should help anyone coping with this -- you can access the booklet in full right here. (Or in Spanish, here.)

Among the many tips are practical ways that family, friends and the individual with Alzheimer's can all get more out of a celebration. Such as, by helping friends and family understand, in a letter, what to expect in the demeanor and condition of your loved one and letting them know what gifts would be useful and which would not work. (The booklet notes that friends and family may not know what to expect or how to act and may be nervous about all that. They'd probably welcome some guidance.)

Tips also include ways to orient the person with memory loss to the season that's at hand -- decorations, etc. -- and ways to provide seasonal activities that he or she can take part in with pleasure. Among these are soothing, "quiet time" activities, such as shelling peas or folding napkins or simply taking a walk. And the booklet reminds you it might be practical to plan celebrations earlier in the day rather than later, to avoid the extra confusion that comes very often in the evenings to people with Alzheimer's. (It's called Sundowner Syndrome.)

"Make sure your family understands your needs and wishes," the booklet advises. "Give yourself permission to do only what you can reasonably manage."

You can read many more tips by accessing the booklet. And you can read more on Alzheimer's and memory loss in a Nov. 17 package of stories by Times staff writer Melissa Healy.

-- Rosie Mestel