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Alzheimer's Association is offering tips and workshops for caregivers over the holiday season

Ginger and Mike Henrichs

The holidays often come with family gatherings. And those can be challenging when a family member has dementia.

The Alzheimer's Association has some tips to make holiday get-togethers more enjoyable for everyone.

Susan Evans is the program coordinator for the Michigan chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. She says holiday gatherings often trigger behavioral changes for people living with memory loss that family members should pay attention to.

“Because as the person is not able to use language to communicate, they might try. We sometimes call it word salad. It might come out in the wrong order, but they're trying to get a point across. And sometimes the only way they can do that is with their behaviors.”

Evans says it’s important to look for activities for your person that complements their current strengths and abilities.

“If you're trying an activity or trying to do anything and it's causing that person to react with a behavior that is harmful in some way, then you want to stop and try to regroup and figure out, can we try something else?”

The Alzheimer's Association is holding workshops to help prepare caregivers to make family gatherings less stressful.

Some of the tips they offer caregivers are joining the person in their current reality. It can be scary to wake up one day and the person or thing you need is not available for you.

Another tip was to pay attention to the physical needs of the person experiencing Alzheimer or Dementia. Keeping track of the last time they ate or drank could help prevent behavioral changes.

The Alzheimer's Association also wants caregivers and family members to remember to approach the person experiencing memory loss calmly and respectfully. Getting frustrated is natural, but it is important to focus on your person's feelings and not facts.

Visit the Alzheimer's Association website for more information about future workshops and tips for the holiday season.

Jamie Simmons comes to Michigan Radio as a new Community Engagement Reporter for the station’s Enterprise team. She is a macro social worker with a strong background in community engagement and communal dialogue.
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