Do you ever find the holidays overwhelming? There are lights and music, decorations and crowds, shopping and cooking, parties and dinners, rich food and alcohol, late nights and busy days— sometimes it feels like you need a holiday to recover from the Christmas season!
If we feel overwhelmed during this season—and we are cognitively well, our brain is fully working—then imagine how overwhelming the holidays may be for someone who has dementia. Someone with dementia may not remember what “Christmas” or “the holidays” mean because they become abstract terms.
Here are some holiday tips to help a loved one with dementia through the holidays!
Beware of Decorations
You see an impressively life-like St. Nicholas welcoming people to your front hallway, but what does your loved one with dementia see? Is she concerned about “the man in the hallway who isn’t having dinner?” Life-like or oversized decorations can be confusing or even scary to someone with dementia. Consider from their perspective how the decorations could be misinterpreted.
Flashing lights draw a mixed response. Some people with dementia are mesmerized by flashing lights; others become alarmed or agitated. Keep consistent bright lighting in all rooms. Dark rooms with candlelight or just the tree lights may be fearful for someone with dementia.
Remove all ornaments that are not edible but look like real food. Fake gingerbread men or houses, fake candy canes or apple ornaments should all be avoided. Someone with dementia may not realize that it is just an ornament and may attempt to eat the decoration.
Have a Quiet Room
You want to include your loved one who has dementia, but you also need to provide a space where they can retreat and have some peace and quiet. People with dementia typically interact best in small groups or one-on-one. If a loved one with dementia is attending a large family gathering, set up a separate room—well lit with comfortable furniture—and recommend that family take turns visiting that person, one at a time. This allows for quality interaction in a way that best matches your loved one’s needs.
Routine is often the first casualty of the holiday season. We stay up late at night, we don’t eat meals at the usual time and we often stray from our usual, healthy diet. Remember how you felt last January after eating heavily and having your routine interrupted? Now imagine someone with dementia. The person with dementia cannot rationalize why they feel different, all they know is that something doesn’t feel right.
As much as possible, keep routine familiar and consistent. Try to maintain regular meal times (even if that means eating separately from the party), and try to limit intake of rich, sugary foods or excessive alcohol. Respect nap times and bedtimes—sleep is as important as ever! By maintaining routine as much as possible, your loved one may be able to better handle the surprises that come with the season
If family members live at a distance, they may be visiting for the first time since the last holiday season. Your loved one may have changed significantly since last holiday season. Advise family and friends in advance so that they know what to expect. Request their assistance in making the holidays easier for your loved one, and outline exactly what you need them to do. Here are some suggestions:
Please do not ask “do you know who I am?” this causes undue stress. While she may not be able to name you, grandma knows you are an important person whom she loves.
Please be aware of the fact that mom now needs to take some time away from the crowd. She finds noise and groups over-whelming. We will have a Quiet Room set up and we invite you to visit mom one at a time in the quiet room.
Please do not encourage alcohol consumption by saying “it’s only one drink!". Dad is now on a medication that does not react well to alcohol and he will not enjoy the event as much when he is trying to process the alcohol.
Set Realistic Expectations
Set realistic expectations for your loved one by limiting the number of events they attend. No more than one event or activity in a given day; only a few in a week with recovery time between events. Step back and try to asses what is realistic for your loved one. Maybe a dinner with 50 people will not be a successful event, but attending a hymn sing would better match your loved one’s preferences and current abilities.
Your loved one will not be able to suddenly do more or handle more because it is the holiday season. If anything, their coping abilities may be taxed and they may become agitated or stressed more easily than usual. Be realistic when scheduling the season.
Select the Top Priority
What is more important—that your loved one attend every event and every tradition is followed in detail, or that your loved one has a merry Christmas feeling loved and happy?
If the top priority is your loved one having a wonderful Christmas season, then focus on the elements that create that sense of joy, peace, and love for them. If you really analyze it, you’ll realize it has nothing to do with decorations or traditions. It has everything to do with family and interaction.
If you are stressed because of holiday prep, your loved one will feel that stress and not enjoy the season. A person with dementia would rather have you slow down, match their pace, and be patient than present a tray with 15 varieties of home-baked cookies that stressed you out!
Your loved one with dementia might enjoy singing a few familiar Christmas carols (because the words of those favourite tunes tend to stick), rather than feel the pressure of keeping up with an animated conversation at a cocktail event.
What will make your loved one smile? When will they seem most at peace? What will have them feeling safe, secure, and loved? Aim to focus on those elements and your loved one will have a truly blessed Christmas.
What do you get for the grandparent or senior who already has everything? The great-grandparents are even harder to shop for! What is the perfect gift for someone who is 80+? Different gifts are ideal depending upon where someone lives. Here are two gift list ideas to suit different living situations.
4 IDEAS FOR SENIORS LIVING AT HOME
If your 80+ relative is living independently at home (either a house, condo, or apartment), then the best gifts you can give them are practical items that will prolong their independence. Your loved one is likely very focused upon remaining at home for as long as possible; any gift you give that helps in achieving that goal is a good idea.
Here are some suggestions
1. Gift Certificates for property maintenance. The physically demanding activities of home maintenance are likely difficult, so provide your loved one with a gift certificate for regular home maintenance chores such as snow shovelling, grass cutting, garden upkeep, window washing, etc.
2. Homemaking and Household Assistance. Out-door house maintenance is not the only area of challenge for the elderly. Household chores can also become quite onerous. Your loved one will greatly appreciate a gift certificate for housekeeping.
3. Assistive Devices. Assistive devices can include a whole range of products to help with any variety of needs. There are specially designed items for challenges such as hearing impairment, sight impairment, weakness following a stroke, dexterity, memory loss, etc. You might be surprised at some of the items available for purchase at your local assistive devices store. Your loved one will truly appreciate this gift if they have already acknowledged challenge in a particular area.
4. Transportation. Many elderly seniors no longer have a licence and no longer drive. No access to transportation can be isolating, especially in the winter months. Providing your loved one with pre-paid driving options ensures that they will not be home-bound when the winter weather hits. Warm Embrace caregivers are pleased to drive your loved ones wherever they need to go.
4 IDEAS FOR THOSE LIVING IN NURSING HOMES
If your loved one lives in a retirement home or long-term care centre, then different gifts might be more appropriate. Their personal quarters are much smaller, so they do not have space to keep many belongings. Here are some ideas that won’t take up too much space but will still bring a smile on Christmas day.
1. Window Ornaments. Glass window ornaments are pretty to look at, and cast a cheerful glow when the sun is shining. There may not be much shelf space available for knick-knacks, but adding a personal touch to the window doesn't take up any additional space.
2.Personal Items. Residents in long-term care use their own preferred personal care items such as hand soap, lotion, toothpaste, etc. A care package of your loved one’s favourite items is always appreciated! The scent is strongly linked with memory and emotion; selecting a favourite scent can induce positive memories.
3. Blanket or Lap Quilt. Having a cozy item such as a small blanket or lap quilt is always comforting. It can be left on the bed or on a chair in your loved one’s room. If recognition of new items is difficult for your loved one, a blanket on the bed implies its purpose in a way that new clothing items do not.
4. Companionship. Providing your loved one with on-going visits is probably the best gift you could offer. Warm Embrace provides Companion Aides to long-term care centers across the region. Companion Aides visit one-on-one with residents and can take them on personal outings into the community. They provide mental and social stimulation, as well as an opportunity for physical activity. This is a gift that keeps on giving long after the holiday season!
FOR SENIORS LIVING ANYWHERE:
Triple Vitality. This gift is suitable for someone living in retirement or long-term care, as well as those still living in the community. Triple Vitality is a proactive approach that focuses on three areas of health—physical fitness, mental stimulation, and social interaction. By maintaining strength and functioning in each of these areas, people maintain independence and enjoy an increased quality of life.
If you just have questions about the above list of gift ideas, please don’t hesitate to call. We love to know that the seniors in this area will have a meaningful holiday season!
I know an elderly gentleman who is a veteran and whose story stood out to me. His medals are proudly displayed in a showcase on the wall in his home; hung below the showcase is a framed photo of him in uniform.
He is both proud and dismissive of his service. He is proud in the sense that he still smiles fondly when remembering his comrades, and his identity is closely linked to his military service. He is dismissive in the way that he doesn't feel he was any different than any other young man who readily volunteered for service. He felt it was his duty, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.
As a young man, recently married his beautiful new bride, he heard about recruitment for the Korean War. He discussed it with his wife, and of course, she didn’t want her new husband heading off to war. As he tells the story, the call of duty meant he couldn’t forsake his country; he felt he was married first to the military, and secondly to his wife.
He enlisted for service and then had to break the news to his wife. To ease the announcement, he invited one of his comrades over for dinner and waited until dessert was served to benignly ask his buddy, “so, how long do you think it will take us to get to Korea?”
As you might imagine, his new wife was less than impressed! She eventually came around though and understood her husband’s devotion. His loyalty has served her well too; the same devotion he showed to his country, he has shown to his wife and family ever since. He is a true man of valour.
It is to gentlemen—and women—such as him that we owe our thanks and appreciation as we reflect on Remembrance Day. From everyone here at Warm Embrace, we express our deepest gratitude for the sacrifices of veterans who have served and continue to serve our country. It is our absolute honour and privilege to care for such distinguished veterans in their hour of need.
Thanksgiving is a time for reflecting upon all of our blessings. Reflection and gratefulness are skills that we regularly see demonstrated by our wonderful clients. We are often reminded to be thankful for all that we have and to be appreciative for all of the small blessings that we unknowingly take for granted.
Our elderly clients, many of whom lived through very difficult times, know all too well how lean years feel. Many lived through the depression era when even basic necessities were in scarce supply; they lived in Europe during the war and experienced shortages, rations, and were in constant danger; they immigrated to Canada and had to build new lives starting from scratch.
They learned how to savour every blessing, to be grateful for each miracle, and to never take anything for granted. Compared to the hardship that our elderly clients once faced, our current challenges seem very mild!
When our clients tell us stories from their youth—stories of courage, determination and gratitude—there is always a common thread. The stories are never focused around possessions or money or things. The stories are centred around the people who mattered most—family, friends and loved ones.
The blessings that are most memorable, even decades later, are the blessings of the most beloved people in their lives. Honouring a friendship, caring for family, falling in love, raising a family, helping a sibling, being loyal above all else—these are the elements that truly matter. These are the blessings to focus upon; these are the blessings for which we should be most grateful.
Our clients teach us many important lessons, but gratitude and the importance of relationships would be at the top of the list. This Thanksgiving season, we want to take the time to reflect upon the relationships that are most important in our lives, and to express gratitude to those people.
From the entire team of Warm Embrace Elder Care, we wish you a blessed and joyful Thanksgiving!
Vacation time! That time that you’ve been excited and waiting for all year. But when vacation time finally arrives you feel hesitant to leave because you are concerned about your elderly parents or your in-laws. This month on July 24th marks International Self-Care Day (ISD). Self-care is “any activity that we do deliberately to take care of our mental, emotional and physical health.” So, going on a summer holiday break counts as self-care!
It hardly counts as a vacation when you have your cell phone and your laptop at the beach in case of emergency. Family caregivers may be the most deserving of respite care but they are often the last ones to actually book time off and go on vacation. The mental break away from everyday stress and demand is desperately needed, but there never seems to be a good time to go on vacation.
Good self-care is key to improved mood, reduced stress and anxiety, and improved relationships with others! What family caregivers really need is peace of mind. They need to feel reassured that their loved ones are in good hands and will be well cared for.
Here at Warm Embrace Elder Care, we’ve assisted many clients during an adult child’s holiday, and the client falls in love with the caregivers so much that the client is disappointed when the holiday is over! To think, families have delayed holidays and felt immense guilt over leaving for vacation, and yet their loved one benefits from the holiday as much as they do.
Vacation time doesn’t have to be associated with guilt. Instead, it can be an exciting opportunity for everyone involved—family receive the much-needed mental break of being on vacation, and elderly relatives enjoy a new friendly visitor, someone who hasn’t yet heard all the great stories!
If you or someone you know is over-due for a vacation due to concern about leaving elderly relatives, be reassured that there are options! For more information, call us at Warm Embrace Elder Care and we’d be happy to help. Everyone needs a break now and then.
There are over 5.9 million seniors in Canada right now and that number will double in the next twenty years. Today’s retirement is certainly not synonymous with passivity. Rather, most retired people will tell you that they wonder how they ever had time to work! Today’s seniors are actively involved as both formal and informal volunteers, caregivers for their grandchildren, hobbyists, part-time employees, travelers, and many other roles.
Seniors month is our opportunity to recognize and celebrate these seniors and their contributions to our community. The consistent volunteering of our seniors—often in behind-the-scenes, unacknowledged positions—contributes to the maintenance of our major institutions. For example, St. Mary’s hospital has over 300 regular volunteers, and Grand River Hospitals has nearly 1000 volunteers. Many of these volunteers are dedicated seniors who wish to help others. You will find countless seniors engaged in volunteer and mentorship capacities across the city, and their contribution is vital to the success of our growing community.
Seniors Month in June is not only about formal government recognition through specific awards; it is also about truly appreciating all of the seniors that you personally know! Take the time to acknowledge their contributions to your life and your community.
Here are a few ideas for how you can celebrate a senior in your community!
1) Nominate seniors for local awards.
If you know a senior who is contributing to the fabric of your community, why not brag about their achievements to others by nominating them for an award?! You can nominate them for the Ontario Senior of the Year Award, the Ontario Senior Achievement Award, the Ontario Medal for Good Citizenship, or any other award in your local community.
2) Listen to their stories and oral history.
Many seniors are natural story-tellers! They have years of wisdom, knowledge and experience to share with younger generations. So, why not take some time to listen to these incredible stories?! You can always share a cup of tea with a senior in your community and engage in a conversation filled with storytelling.
3) Write a simple thank-you card.
These days the only mail people seem to receive are bills and statements, so sending a thoughtful thank-you card could brighten up a senior’s day! Simply writing a thoughtful and heartfelt letter could make a senior feel celebrated and appreciated.
4) Take your appreciated senior on an outing.
You can plan a fun outing to the theatre, a church service, a senior’s dance, a strawberry social, or even just out for a nice dinner together; to demonstrate your thankfulness and appreciation for their contributions to your community.
5) Plan an event in honour of your senior loved-one.
Maybe there’s a milestone to celebrate like a 90th birthday or a 60th wedding anniversary; an event honouring them would be perfect! You could even host a family reunion that would allow you to recognize many loved ones at once.
6) Spend quality time together.
The simplicity of spending quality time together can demonstrate your care and appreciation. The way that you choose to demonstrate your gratitude is up to you and allows you to be as creative as you wish!
People appreciate recognition at every stage of life and you can never offer too much praise. You may be surprised at what you can learn about the seniors in your life and discover some of the activities with which they are involved. So, this June, take the opportunity to encourage the seniors in your life by acknowledging their accomplishments—you, in turn, will be inspired.
June is Seniors’ month, and it’s the perfect time to recognize and appreciate seniors! Seniors prove that aging doesn’t need to prevent anyone from leading fulfilling lives, instead they outline that aging enhances life experiences.
Every day seniors are breaking the mold by leading fulfilling lives! So, let’s put to rest those negative stereotypes when it comes to aging. Instead, we should all celebrate and appreciate the contributions that seniors are making in our communities.
Seniors are an important part of our community because they contribute their wisdom, friendship and experiences. As a community, it is our responsibility to ensure that we create an environment where all citizens are valued and respected throughout the life process.
How do we create that environment?
The key to creating this environment is prioritizing intergenerational opportunities, between the young and the old. When we create intergenerational opportunities, we are creating this space where seniors have the ability to pass along their wisdom and advice to generations. This environment then breaks down barriers between generations and puts to rest negative stereotypes that surround aging. When those barriers are removed, open and honest conversations are shared between different generations. When founded upon mutual respect, intergenerational learning can be deeply impactful for everyone involved!
Why is celebrating our Seniors so important?
When we celebrate our seniors, we are affirming that their contributions are ever so important to the fabric of our communities. Without our seniors’ accomplishments, our communities would not be what they are today!
This June, in honour of Seniors’ month, make an effort to spend time with someone who is from a different generation than you—or maybe even two or three generations! Pause, and truly listen, and learn from each other and you will reap the rewards of intergenerational sharing.
Here at Warm Embrace Elder Care, we want to thank all of the wonderful seniors that we see on a daily basis. We are continually learning from you and are enlightened by your viewpoints. It is an honour to serve you!
International Women’s Day, and the week leading up to it, is an opportunity to acknowledge the advancement of women, and all of the successes achieved by women. International Women’s Day (IWD) was first observed in 1911 in both Europe and America, and has since grown to become a day of recognition and celebration in both developed and developing countries across the world. In some countries, IWD is a national holiday!
International Women’s Day started as a political event and was primarily focused on women’s economic, political and social achievements. Acknowledging advancements in each of these areas remains important and a focus of IWD, but it has expanded to also be a way to acknowledge all women as a form of respect and appreciation for all that women do—both publicly and privately.
Here at Warm Embrace, we are honoured to have so many fabulous women on our team! Our wonderful employees make a different in their client’s lives every single day! We have fantastic women on our team who make a difference in a quiet way, selflessly meeting the needs of other. We want to acknowledge and publicly appreciate the wonderful women on our team for the meaningful service they diligently provide.
We are also inspired to serve elderly female clients, many of whom are well aware that women have made incredible progress; our elderly clients lived through an era that is quite different from today! We are always amazed at the stories of bravery and triumph when our clients share details of how they fought for personal progress. We certainly owe a debt of gratitude for the many women—and men—who came before us and ensured that today’s women would have greater opportunities by changing the course of history. It is an honour to serve such inspiring people!
In recognition of International Women’s Day, we want to say a special thank you to all of the extraordinary women who paved the way for this generation of young women to experience greater equality, and to continue working toward even greater progress.
It’s no secret that the holiday season has become increasingly complicated with a heavy focus on commercialism—lots of shopping, busy malls, huge meals, many parties...the list goes on. While some people may enjoy making detailed desserts that look like a Martha Stewart display, many others find it stressful. When did all this pressure become the norm?
If you ask your grandparents what Christmas used to be like, I’ll bet they would tell you a different story. If they were of the generation that lived through the depression era, you can be certain that there was very little—if any—Christmas shopping to be done.
Instead, the focus was on being together with loved ones, and participating in activities together. Rather than rushing around trying to have everything in perfect order before family arrived, the focus was on doing things together as a family. Decorations were much simpler, but usually included extended family members. Popcorn was strung and used as a garland hung outside for the birds to enjoy. Fruit featured prominently in
décor—orange peels were used creatively as little baskets, or peels were dried and cut into shapes.
These simple traditions are low-cost and allow everyone to focus on quality time together, rather than individually rushing about stressing about fancy décor. Perhaps this year you can slow down the pace of the holiday season and revert to some time-honoured traditions from your grandparents’ era. What a special tribute for your grandparents or great-grandparents this holiday season!