Keeping it Merry and Bright: How To Cope With a Parent Showing Signs of Memory Loss
It’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year. It’s a time when people come together to celebrate and reminisce about the old days.
This can become difficult when you are trying to celebrate holidays with a parent or loved one who is showing signs of memory loss. This year will also be uniquely challenging due to COVID-19 restrictions and safety concerns.
Memory loss and its repercussions may feel beyond your control. However there are a number of aspects related to how you approach this holiday season and care for your loved one that are within your control.
We have suggestions on how to cope during this unique holiday season with a parent showing signs of memory loss.
Coping Strategies When a Loved One Shows Signs of Memory Loss
Protect Your Loved One’s Strength
Coping with a parent’s memory loss can come with many uncertainties. Protecting them however, is an area where you can feel empowered.
Be ready to listen and offer your support in whatever way is safest for both of you. That might mean helping to schedule appointments or calling doctor’s offices directly to make sure you’re informed on the status of your loved one’s health.
Make sure you and your loved one have gotten the flu shot this season. It’s a relatively small act that can have a huge impact. Having the flu shot means there is one less risk for your loved one.
To reduce the risk of you or your loved one being exposed to COVID-19, keep up with your hand-washing protocols and strict mask use, as well as avoiding crowded places.
Supporting your loved one’s general health is always important. Be sure to keep up your spirits and theirs. Invest in a holistic approach to wellness so that you can ensure their health is built on a strong foundation, this includes eating well, exercising, and having healthy sleep habits.
Spend some time really thinking about how the holiday season will look different this year and what traditions have been most meaningful for you and your senior loved one. Those traditions that are most emblematic of the holidays may need some modification but can still continue with a little creativity and flexibility.
You may also need to prepare your own expectations for your interactions with your loved one. If they are showing signs of memory loss, they may not be as enthusiastic about these traditions as they have in the past.
Don’t take these changes personally. Instead focus on creating new special memories with your senior loved one and on soaking up as many moments as you can together. Also take this chance to observe their behavior and consider ways you can support them as they age.
Prepare Your Loved One
Start preparing your loved one for a new and different holiday season. Instead of focusing on the changes, strengthen the parts that will stay the same.
Preparing your loved one for a change in how you normally celebrate holidays will help you and your loved one cope with memory loss in a less stressful way. Acknowledge and remind your loved one of the brightest parts of the holidays.
Is there an after breakfast phone call with a relative who lives overseas? Is there a special gag gift that gets revamped every year? Remind your loved one of the love and care that will still be infused this holiday season. Focus on finding ways to help them feel comfortable and calm in a safe environment as you go through the holidays.
A really important strategy for coping with a loved one experiencing signs of memory loss is to practice patience. You might have to repeat yourself or re-explain a story or anecdote. That’s ok. Remember that they are doing their best.
Coping with your loved one’s memory loss is a new experience. It’s a lot to try and manage. Your loved one isn’t going to get everything right all the time and neither are you.
Practice patience with yourself as well. You may get caught up in reminiscing about the past and may forget that your loved one will lose their place or get confused. On occasion you might get frustrated or feel strong emotions. Give yourself a break and remember to be patient with yourself.
Pass on Perfection
Your loved one is just that, someone you love! But they are not perfect and neither are you. This is not a simple or predictable experience, so make sure you don’t have too high of expectations. You are doing the best you can. You are managing outside responsibilities and still doing what you can to be present for your loved one.
This holiday season probably isn’t going to be the picture-perfect event you may have envisioned this time last year. That’s ok. It’s still a time to show your appreciation and care for the people who mean the most to you.
Lean into the concept of your presence is the present. Your presence in whatever capacity you can manage is the greatest gift you can give your loved one as they age.
Keep it Pleasant
Oftentimes when loved ones experience memory loss, they aren’t entirely grounded in reality. Show compassion as you connect with your loved one as you both manage the signs of memory loss they’re experiencing.
For example, it’s not worth it to argue with them. Sometimes mild agreement or gentle redirection can be the best way to approach a contested topic. It isn’t worth the stress to argue over something your loved one either doesn’t remember or has misremembered.
Play and Have Fun
Holidays can feel a little less bright when coping with a parent experiencing memory loss. But pay special attention to the moments of levity and light. Bring out the fun and silliness with board or card games. You can even play games together virtually, through services such as Zoom.
It’s ok to miss the way you’ve done the holidays before but don’t forget that this is still a chance to make new happy lasting memories for yourself, while being grateful for the time you’re spending with your loved one.
Enjoying the Holidays with Your Loved One
It’s easy to forget that celebrating the holidays often looks different each year. There’s the year that the food didn’t quite turn out. Or the time that you got all the way to your destination and forgot a gift. The most exciting and anticipated holidays are when there are new faces who get to enjoy and share in the celebrations.
All of these aspects of the holidays involve change, and this year will have its fair share of changes. This gives us an opportunity to really embrace the parts of the holidays that are most important to us and learn and grow with the people that we care about the most.
Kensington Park Cares for Your Loved Ones All Year
Knowing that your loved one is in a safe, caring environment is one less concern to occupy your mind during the holidays.
Transitioning a loved one to memory care earlier, rather than later, can ensure your loved one has the best quality of life possible.
Memory care at Kensington Park provides 24/7 onsite nursing care in addition to trained and certified primary care managers. We promise to love and care for your loved one as we do our own.
Call Kensington Park today to schedule a virtual tour of the community and learn more about our memory care neighborhoods.