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Tips to include a loved one with Alzheimers in a family event

Taking Mom Out of Her Routine: Family Events and Dementia

Whether it is a wedding, anniversary, graduation or other milestone, having family together to celebrate is an important part of marking the event and creating special memories. It is a wonderful opportunity for older family members to engage with their younger relatives, tell stories, take photos, and share special memories between them.

That’s why is natural to want to include all your loved ones, even an aging mom or dad who is living with dementia. It is also natural to have a variety of concerns. How will they handle being taken out of their daily routine? Will the excitement be too much for them? Will they become confused or agitated?  

While you can’t control exactly how your loved one will handle the event, you can prepare them as well as others in advance.

Start by being an advocate for your loved one. Know their limits.

It is important to consider your loved one’s physical and cognitive health above all else. Those in the early stages of dementia may be much more able to handle the ambient noise, foot traffic, and other conditions typical in a big family event. For others who are deeper into the illness, it can be overwhelming and stressful.

Knowing their limits is important. Be an advocate. If they are clearly not ready to handle a family event, you will want to make other arrangements for them.

If, however, after careful consideration, and you feel they are up for participation, here are eight tips to to help minimize issues and make the experience more enjoyable.

Prepare in advance:

  1. Familiarize yourself with the venue. Whether it is at a family home, a church, a park, or other facility make sure you have information on seating, bathrooms, and areas where you can relocate your loved one if necessary. Many public buildings are dementia-friendly and can provide special accommodations.
  2. Talk with your loved one about the event. Take the time to explain the timeline, venue, and how the day will go. Ask them how they feel about it. Take their concerns seriously.
  3. Prepare family members and friends. This can be handled in phone calls if necessary. Try to arrange with a close family member or friend to be on hand to support your own efforts and step in to help if necessary.

As the event gets closer:

  1. Bring the essentials. Here are some things to have with you for your loved one:
  • Bottle of water
  • Medications
  • A small snack
  • Mobility aids
  • Any other item that will provide added comfort for them
  1. Make sure they are dressed for comfort. Your loved one can be dressed appropriately yet comfortably. Consider low heeled shoes, layered garments to adjust for weather variation, and a warm sweater or jacket.
  2. Have trusted family members or friends nearby. If possible, arrange with your host in advance to sit with those who know your loved one and are supportive.
  3. Have a Plan B. It may be as simple as taking them out for a short stroll or relocating to a quieter area. Finally, be prepared to leave the event altogether. Having options and being flexible are key to your own wellbeing as well as that of your loved one.
  4. Be prepared to say “no”. As the event gets closer, monitor your loved one’s physical and emotional readiness. Follow your own intuition. Confer with other family members or close friends who know your loved one. If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Always have a remain at home option for them.

Taking a loved one with dementia to a family event will never be 100% stress free. If you are caring for a mom or dad with dementia, you know that taking them out of their daily routine may create issues. However, by preparing everyone in advance, checking in with your loved one, and having options, will help minimize those potential issues and optimize enjoyment for everyone, including yourself!

Have more questions? Always feel free to contact one of our Anthem Memory Care communities. We’d be happy to answer your questions and provide any additional resources you may need.