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12 Holiday Tips at Hand for Dementia Caregivers Over the Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year, known as Spring Festival, is one of China's most important cultural and historical celebrations. For the Chinese household, its deep-rooted history remains until today, as this joyous occasion serves as an excellent opportunity for generations of families to gather, reconnect, and spend quality time.

In Singapore, the Chinese community celebrates the Chinese New Year within households and workplaces. Several organizations and community groups also engage in different communal festivities.

Celebratory atmosphere aside, festive gatherings may not be all warm and fuzzy for everyone, as the holidays may be stressful for those caregivers of a loved one with dementia.

Due to the obligations of caring for their loved ones, many caregivers are stretched far too thin. Not to mention the adverse influence of abrupt routine changes on dementia patients, which renders this season rather challenging.

Still, the festivities should not end here. If you put in the effort, a caregiver might even transform this handful of experiences into a season of celebration. We've gathered here these 12 helpful tips to make this holiday an ecstatic one for you and your loved one:

1. Figure Out What Is Realistic

During the holiday season, caregivers frequently find the need to balance the demands and needs of numerous people. More often than not, most of them must weigh their priorities with those they care about constantly.

If you take a step back and delineate what you find meaningful to you and your loved one, the holidays will be more memorable. Make space to prioritise what you both want while setting aside the demands that may generate unnecessary stress.

2. Lend an Extra Hand in the Chinese New Year Preparation

It's crucial to keep loved ones with dementia in the family involved since merely being in the presence of those who care about them can be beneficial. It doesn't have to be demanding; simple and small chores will suffice. Allow them to help with cleaning, setting up decorations, helping out with cooking, or preparing religious offerings.

Find enthusiastic activities they can enjoy and start new traditions around them, but keep in mind to understand.

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

With the holidays quickly unfolding, it is normal to feel many things. Everyone appears to be particularly busy with holiday preparations. Still, it is critical to realise the presence of your family, whom you may turn to for help. It can be challenging to accept when you need support at first, but a caregiver has to be looked after as well.

Whatever you do, talk to your family or friends about how you're feeling. Don't expect them to figure it out on their own. Verbally expressing your needs can help you de-stress and keep you in positive spirits so you can take care of your loved one's needs as well.

4. Keep It Small

Caregivers need to recognise when a person with dementia exhibits a behavioural change. Most of the time, they are uneasy, anxious, and unable to sit quietly. Environmental factors, for instance, may act as a trigger for agitation.

In this case, be wary of huge crowds or be surrounded by strangers – albeit at home – over the holidays. A hyperactive setting can be too much, so keep the gathering small or give your loved one some quiet time.

5. Have the Festivities at Their “Best Time” of Day

It can be challenging to adapt and remember new habits with dementia. Unfamiliar places and activities may cause your loved one to experience stress, confusion, and aggression – influencing Sundowning Syndrome. Maintain a predictable routine and organise activities on days and times convenient for the person with dementia to prevent their late-day confusion, especially during the holidays.

6. Provide Familiarity and Comfort With Music

Assist your loved ones in filling their life and home with things that bring them comfort. If they have to receive support in an alternative nursing home for dementia, fill the room with their favourite things. For example, play familiar calm music or relaxing sounds of nature and some old favourites to ease the transition and alleviate their sundowning symptoms gently.

7. Take a Trip Down Memory Lane

Bring familiar items such as photographs to an unfamiliar setting or situation to improve the feeling of familiarity and security. Sense of nostalgia is a pleasant and fulfilling way of looking back on memories from the past. Even if the person with dementia cannot communicate vocally, engaging in recollections about their memories can be rewarding.

8. Adhere to a Schedule

Daily routines assist patients with dementia cope with the symptoms of short-term memory loss by involving them in everyday activities. Even more complex are the festive occasions as it does not happen frequently. To assist your loved one feel more calm and collected, stick to the same schedule every day. Routine helps ground them, even if they have little or no cognitive sense of time.

Changes to routines that work for you both should be in moderation. If you must make any changes, do so gradually and with as little disruption as possible.

9. Build and Practise Valuable Traditions

Practising age-old ceremonies as well as infusing new elements in terms of decor and entertainment is vital to making your holidays more memorable. Take the time to practice them together. Squeeze them in, whether it's enjoying a favourite meal, reliving meaningful memories, listening to memorable tunes, or playing nostalgic games with the entire family.

10. Communicate Effectively Through Improvisational Theatre Technique

Effective communication is critical for developing essential connections, whether you're chatting with your loved ones over the phone or personally this holiday season. Please don't leave them out of discussions. To avoid their relying on memory for response, speak directly to them and, if possible, ask yes or no questions. Don't worry if stumped for words; the essential thing is to be present and connect.

11. Do Not Engage in an Argument

When a loved one has dementia, it's normal to become frustrated with their inadequacies and want to remedy them. For instance, they may have asked you to make their favourite dinner, then they forget about it and refuse to eat. Their memories, on the other hand, become twisted. That is to say, arguing your side will not persuade them to change their minds. Still, it will induce irritation, fear, and confusion in both of you.

Let it be if the person says something you disagree with. Remember that what matters most is your time and relationship with the person, not who is right.

12. Celebrate the Present With Your Loved One

If anyone deserves something to make one day stand out from the rest, it’s those who are already coping with dementia. Recreating special holiday traditions may be a disaster, but by shifting your goals, you can end up making the most of every holiday you spend with your loved one. So rather than focusing on how to celebrate the occasion "perfectly," ensure that you and your loved one have a wonderful time and be grateful for the opportunity to enjoy it with them.

Instead of attempting to bring your loved one back into your reality, celebrate with them in theirs. Supporting them to appreciate the present moment can grant them comfort and happiness during this season. In the spirit of festivities, give both of you a chance to celebrate and live in the moment.

Embrace the Holiday Spirit

Make the most of your time celebrating the forthcoming Chinese New Year, as moments like these are limited. Whether you're both spending the holidays with family at home or in an elderly care facility like a retirement home, making plans and setting boundaries can help you alleviate the season's stress. Create another memorable holiday experience for you and your loved one, no matter how simple, and let them know they are not alone.


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