Today I was researching web-based materials for caregivers related to the holidays and ‘rediscovered’ the article 8 Tips for a Great Holiday Season at the Alzheimer’s Reading Room, a website I highly recommend. This is a sensitive and very helpful article on ways to decrease stress and increase meaningful moments over the holidays with your loved one living with memory loss.
Tip 5 talks about reaching back to your loved one’s childhood traditions with the holidays. Not your traditions, but those specific to your loved one’s memories. Granted, many of their childhood traditions may have become yours as they were passed down, but if you know of something your loved one has referenced in the past, or a piece of music lost over the years that might have been heard in their childhood, seek out that information. If you are the primary care-giver and have family support, ask someone to research what might have been played on the radio or in the dance halls when your loved one was very young. Play the music with no expectation from your loved one to remember. You could play the music while folding laundry or preparing food for a meal. If they do remember the music, ask them about it but not questions like “what do you remember” as the memory may be reality for them in that moment. Ask them questions like: tell me about the music; what does the music make you think of; what do you see when you hear it; who were/are you with; etc. These questions allow you to meet them where they are at, they can share a memory without feeling out of sorts and, hopefully, provide you with a personal connection. Sometimes music can bring strong emotions with them as well. Often simply being there for them is a help or be prepared to put on music you know that soothes them if agitation is increased, but first, try and talk with them to find out what’s going on.
I highly recommend the Alzheimer’s Reading Room as a good resource for caregivers, suffers of memory loss related diseases and for friends and family in providing support.