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The Holidays and Alzheimer's Disease

Why Wait?

The months of November and December are full of holiday traditions based on family memory.  It is impossible to avoid the emphasis on family time and the creation of memories.   Often this hyperfocus makes life with a family member with Alzheimer’s bittersweet.  The changes in routine brought about by increased family visits, parties and travel disrupt the individual with dementia’s coping.  Increased stress results for both caregiver and family member with dementia. 

Despite behavioral warning signs, most families continue to pursue the traditional family approach to the holidays.  If Thanksgiving dinner has always been eaten right before the big game and includes all 25 family members, so it will be regardless of Dad’s Alzheimer’s disease.  When Dad has a change in behavior the next day or even the day after, no one realizes that it was his disease responding to the stress of Thanksgiving Day.

Progressively Lowered Stress Threshold is the name of this phenomenon.  An individual with dementia has a lowered stress threshold.  When stress exceeds his/her threshold, there often is a behavioral change within the next 36 hours.  Sometimes, it is a catastrophic reaction that results in a fall or a hospitalization.  Not the Norman Rockwell holiday memory you seek. 

Arden Courts is a purpose-built memory care community whose entire design and program is based on minimizing stress through spatial and social density, extensive programming and a well-trained staff.  The months of November and December are very special at Arden Courts.  We realize the importance of family, memories and tradition.  Our residents’ biographies are well-known, and we tailor our holidays and our engagement activities accordingly.  Holidays are not bypassed or ignored, but they are celebrated with family within the familiar routine and environment that enables your family member to thrive.

Yet, many times a family in crisis will state that they will not consider having their loved one move to Arden Courts until after the holidays.  It is a sad and familiar refrain when the evidence points to the value of an earlier move. 

If you review Arden Courts’ testimonials, you will see many happy families recounting special holiday events that engage the whole family in food, music and entertainment.  Arden Courts communities embrace the family with monthly family events regardless of the season.  They also reserve space for private family events. Families repeatedly expound just how much Arden Courts added to their time with their loved one.

What if you could have your family holiday with your loved one catered by a dementia-trained team of professionals? The event would be tailored to your loved one’s traditions and stress threshold.  You and your family would simply arrive at your loved one’s home.  The food, music and decor are all in place and well-prepared.  Other families are gathered who have been on this same journey.  You feel a spirit of mutual understanding and gratitude.  Every detail is chosen to optimize memories.  Loved ones beam as they show you their home and community.  They are content in the supportive routine and environment that maximizes their safety and contentment.  You are free to focus on your loved one, his or memories and present moment rather than being preoccupied with the traditions that no longer work for the family.

Research continually validates the value of family visitation that is facilitated by trained staff and a supportive environment.  One study included a music intervention for five weeks of family visits. Those individuals with dementia who were in the music group had increased engagement during the family visit and more enjoyment.  This group continued to excel in family visits even after the study ended.

If you think you want to wait until after the holidays, here is a challenge.  Take the time to experience an Arden Courts family event with your loved one.  It promises to be a visit that will not only be memorable but thought-provoking.

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