Family reunions or gatherings give a chance to reconnect with loved ones. However, when you are a senior with dementia, these events might not turn out to be a positive experience. With some preparation, especially on the part of caregivers who may need to be aware of the senior’s frame of mind, can help your loved one navigate the gathering and not get confused around so many people.
Here are some tips to help a loved one with dementia at a family gathering:
Prepare the family– Inform your family members, ones who’ve not been around the senior for a while, about your loved one’s condition, so that they are prepared to deal with any and every situation that may unfold pertaining to your loved one. Also, do not walk your dementia-afflicted loved one into a room full of relatives, it can be overwhelming, instead encourage relatives to engage in one-on-one conversation, or to visit a loved one in smaller groups.
Things to expect– Someone who has dementia may be more at a loss in a family gathering due to the presence of so many people, sounds and noise. This sudden change in routine and environment may be more jolting than anything else. If it’s a family reunion that you are heading to with your loved one at some other place, remind your mom or dad about the location of the bathroom and ask them from time to time whether they are feeling comfortable or need something as they try to adjust in the new environment and adapt to the surroundings.
If the reunion is elsewhere, one should address tripping hazards like floor mats and lamp cords before the arrival of the older adult. Also, make sure they are out of reach of children, the naughtier ones especially, and make them stay away from a place where multiple conversations and noise from adults are happening, as it could cause confusion, but do not isolate him/her.
Before the gathering– It is advisable that you involve your senior loved one in the preparations in the run up to the gathering. Ask for their inputs, and try and incorporate that in the celebrations. If they show willingness to decorate or wish to help with cooking, encourage them to do so. They should be made to feel that they are making a contribution.
During the family reunion– Keep an eye on your beloved as you all talk and have fun. See whether they are withdrawing, confused or overwhelmed, talk to them if so. In your interaction with your loved one, avoid questions about the future, instead help them take a trip down memory lane because long-term memories are easier to recall. Also, do not ask them too many questions or multiple-option questions, they might not be able to take them in. Talk a bit slowly and look them in the eye while talking. As dementia progresses, they may forget what utensils exactly are for and might as well lose control over them. So, simplify food options on their plates, such as give them finger foods or cut up their meat for them, but do not do this in front of everyone as you might end up embarrassing your beloved.
If the gathering or reunion is at a home other than that of the senior, head back home when it is apparent that the senior has had enough.
For more assistance caring for your senior loved one, contact Senior Sanctuary of Anthem- an award-winning North Phoenix assisted living facility, to learn about our specialized memory programs designed to help seniors and their caregivers.