We all look forward to getting together over the Christmas holidays and sharing family traditions with loved ones. You can be sure that Grandma and Grandpa–or Nana and Papa, or whatever you call them in your family–want to be part of the fun, too! Including them can require a little extra planning and TLC, especially if dementia is part of the equation.
Tips for Being a Perfect Party Host
Accessibility. If mobility is a problem, hold the party in an accessible location with an accessible bathroom. Including everyone is the goal; you will be a hero if your loved one with a walker or wheelchair has these basic needs met.
Arrange for an escort. An escort can give a person with early-stage dementia a huge boost of confidence knowing they are in the right place at the right time. Assign someone (or a few people) to assist elderly relatives with driving, getting up the sidewalk and through the door.
Take the lead in spending time with family members who have dementia or disabilities. The ones who are physically and mentally more nimble need to initiate interactions with the ones who may be stuck in a chair. Go give Grandma a hug and an honest compliment! Sit down and reminisce a bit. Notice together the grandchild who has Grandpa’s smile. Ask a shy family member to bring a glass of punch. Invite the teenager (or the teenager’s parents) to tell all about their latest and greatest. Find opportunities to create these kinds of small interactions with everyone!
Include everyone in the conversation. Conversation can be a challenge for people with memory loss. They might have trouble retrieving words or worry about repeating themselves. The solution? Give them something fun to listen to and smile about! Give them the seat near the dice game or the friendly banter among siblings. Tell favorite stories. If Grandma liked to cook maybe she would love a seat in the kitchen where you can ask for advice about the gravy or get a little help with drying dishes.
Notice when it’s time for a break. A big family crowd can be overwhelming for someone with dementia. It might help to give that loved one a break by inviting him or her to the den for one on one conversation.
Keep the routine. Mealtime is important for many older people, especially if they are managing blood sugar levels or other health issues. If your meal is a little later than usual have Grandma or Grandpa be your taste testers, or offer hors d’oeuvres. And if an afternoon nap is part of the routine, have a plan for that, too.
Know dietary details. Keep in mind your loved one’s needs for a special diet or food that is easy to chew. If it’s complicated and you need to focus on other aspects of the meal, ask another family member to plan for it.
Give the caregiver a break. If mom or dad or someone else at the party is the regular caregiver, give them a break! Step up and help out. Both the caregiver and the one receiving care will probably enjoy the change, and will leave feeling refreshed and loved.
Need More Insight?
For more helpful tips on how to have a positive relationship with your loved one with dementia check out these Insights from Arthur’s. Or if you have questions about your loved one’s care or need help finding resources, contact Deb Nygaard at Arthur’s Residential Care for a free, no-obligation chat.