Alzheimer's art

Attempting to preserve traditions, hold family celebrations and prepare holiday foods can all be stressful and overwhelming for the Alzheimer’s caregiver in normal times. Trying to get through it during the coronavirus pandemic can add more layers of stress and undue anxiety on you.

Adjusting to the circumstances means adjusting your expectations. Instead of worrying about having that perfect Christmas and/or traditional celebration with family and friends, give yourself permission to do what you can reasonably and safely manage, which most likely means smaller gatherings, if any at all.

Try to be realistic and flexible in your planning and consult with family and friends, and your loved one, too, in ways you can share the holiday. If your loved one lives in a long-term care setting, be sure to adhere to the visiting policies and special protocols outlined by that community.

Adhere to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and know that even when precautions are taken, those visiting from outside your home increase the risk of spreading the virus.

If you are planning an in-person gathering, try to host the celebration outside and restrict the number of people attending. Wear masks, practice social distancing and remind everyone to wash their hands regularly. Avoid buffet-style serving. It is a good idea to ask guests to bring their own food, beverages and utensils for those in their household only.

Though difficult, refrain from close contact like hugging and handshakes. The duration of the party should be kept to a minimum. Family members or friends who have been exposed to the virus prior to your holiday event should not attend.

Involve your loved one in the preparations as much as possible in things he or she enjoys. Wrapping gifts, making holiday cards, decorating the home or baking holiday goodies can be a time of reminiscing and joy for you and your loved one. Keep in mind that too many tasks or activities may overwhelm both of you, so balance is the key.

Try to maintain your loved one’s routine as much as possible with physically distanced guidelines.

When it comes to gifts, ask family and friends to mail them rather than delivering in person. As a caregiver you can provide gift suggestions, such as favorite music, treats, adaptable clothing, recordable greeting cards, aromatic hand lotions or gift cards from a grocery store or restaurant.

If you decide to spend Christmas apart from family and friends, which is advisable, try to find creative ways to mark the day. Gathering virtually online can be fulfilling when joining other for singing carols, showing off favorite holiday foods and opening gifts. Or family members might want to do a drive-by in front of your home with signs and decorations to celebrate.

Through these new traditions, you and your loved one can find moments of joy, despite all the restrictions.

Questions about Alzheimer's disease or related disorders can be sent to Dana Territo, the Memory Whisperer, owner of Dana Territo Consulting, LLC, at