11/12/2013 12:10 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Approaching the Holiday Season as an Alzheimer's Caregiver

With the holiday season right around the corner, it is important that those acting as familial caregivers to individuals with Alzheimer's disease understand how to handle this often difficult time. There is no denying that while the holidays can be a fun time to bring family and friends together, it can also be a difficult time for families who have a loved one with Alzheimer's disease. It can be difficult to find joy in these gatherings when a loved one is dealing with Alzheimer's, but there are a few ways that you can prepare yourself and your family for this time as you adapt to the situation and learn to appreciate the moments that you have with your loved one.

The first thing that you will want to do when it comes to preparing yourself for the holiday season with your loved one with Alzheimer's disease is to set some realistic expectations for how the holiday can go. You will want to remember there are only certain things that your loved one with dementia will be capable of, and that you shouldn't expect them to go beyond their capabilities just because you are celebrating a holiday. In fact, you may want to adjust your expectations to be slightly lower. Many times, the holidays can be overwhelming for an individual with Alzheimer's disease.

The change in their routine can be frustrating and overwhelming for individuals with Alzheimer's disease; they may be too overwhelmed to understand what is going on or they may become agitated or angry by their new and unfamiliar surroundings. There are others who may be confused because they feel unprepared for a holiday celebration. As a family member or caregiver you need to be prepared for these types of reactions. With this in mind you will want to make sure that you plan the right activities for your loved one with Alzheimer's and only engage in activities that they can still participate in. Avoid alcohol and make sure that the room is cleared from any obstacles that may startle them or cause them to trip. Try to keep the conversation at a level that can engage your loved one so they can start to warm up to the situation.

You will also want to keep in mind that you not only need to help prepare your loved one with Alzheimer's disease, but you also need to prepare other people in the family for any potential changes. Children in particular can be overwhelmed when the holidays roll around and their loved one is not acting as they normally do. To help maintain a peaceful environment for everyone, make sure that you that you take the time to talk to any small children who will be around for the holiday and prepare them for some differences that may occur with the individual with Alzheimer's.

While you will want to make some small tweaks to your normal holiday gathering, you will want to make sure that you still keep your family traditions alive. You shouldn't abandon family traditions or change everything about the holiday experience because your loved one has Alzheimer's disease; instead, you should keep your traditions alive and make sure that you cherish the memories you have with them during this special time of year.