Jewish Pavilion

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Preparing for Hanukkah when your loved one has Dementia

Annie, NanWhen you live with someone who has dementia, you know that your number one goal is to keep to a routine and reduce stress. This can be especially challenging at holiday time when we are all under more stress and seldom follow a routine. It is best to keep holiday gatherings small and quiet to avoid over-stimulation. Tell your guests in advance about your loved ones condition, so they are well- prepared and responsive to his or her needs. Suggest ways to cope such as avoidance of argument.

Keep festivities to a shorter time frame. Since most people with dementia experience a form of sun-downing, I suggest a morning celebration such as a brunch party. Involve your loved one in the preparations such as decorating.

Some experts suggest that you prepare your loved one well by crossing off the days in advance of the party on the calendar and  sharing photos of former holiday celebrations. I do not agree with this advice. When you prepare people too much, It makes them nervous. Someone with dementia will not remember the advance preparations, so why upset them? Instead, I suggest waking them up that morning and letting them know that we are celebrating Hanukkah today. You may want to sing a few songs with them and show them the decorations you have laid out for the holiday. Ask your loved on to help you make the potato latkes and you can do it together while listening to Hanukkah music. The music can be calming and set the right mood for your upcoming party.