December can be a busy time of year filled with holiday events. When a family member or friend has Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia, there may be a temptation to overlook celebrations because the family is busy with caregiving responsibilities. Families may also wonder how best to include the person with dementia in holiday activities.
It is important to remember to keep the holiday season meaningful while ensuring it doesn’t become overwhelming for the person with dementia or their caregivers.
Miriam Lundberg’s mom, Reyna Escoto, has always loved Christmas. After she was diagnosed with Lewy Body dementia two years ago, her role in the family gatherings had to change.
“She was the one who was most involved in decorating the tree, and making Christmas dinner. That’s not the case anymore,” says Miriam.
Reyna used to host her extended family of 30 people at her home each Christmas Eve and Miriam says it became too big a task.
“I think she feels she has to help,” Miriam says, adding when her mom does try and help she ends up exhausted and sometimes ill.
The family now has Christmas dinner at another family member’s home. Miriam says the family encourages Reyna to sit in the kitchen with some of her grandkids so she can still feel like she’s a part of the preparation.
Miriam says the family knows that as Reyna’s disease progresses, there will be even more changes.
“This year we’re not making any additional changes but we know going forward, gatherings may have to be just our immediate family,” Miriam says.
However, Miriam says it’s important to the family to include Reyna as long as they can so she doesn’t feel left out.
“We keep her involved in things to show her that we want her there not just at the holidays, but at every family gathering,” Miriam says.
If you are unsure of how to include your loved one in events this holiday season, here are a few additional tips:
• Choose a place the person knows for the event. Having a familiar environment reduces stress and provides a feeling of well-being.
• If a person with dementia is unable to attend the event, consider bringing the event to the person. Plan for opportunities when family members can visit in small groups.
• Hold activity at a time of day when the person is most able to participate. Many people with dementia are at their best in the mornings, while others need a relaxed morning and are more able to take part in afternoon activities.
For more information on planning for special occasions, click here.
For the last 20 years, David Greenwood has been making annual donations to the Alzheimer Society of Manitoba. The Alzheimer Society is an organization close to his heart as he knows firsthand about the disease because of his mother’s diagnosis.
“I am happy to give. It makes me feel good and I’d like to see the disease eradicated,” says Greenwood of his reason for giving to the Alzheimer Society.
While he knows that a cure for Alzheimer’s disease may be years away, Greenwood is pleased that some of his funds are being directed toward research. It is also important to him that his donations are being used to support families who are affected by dementia.
Each year, Greenwood donates at least 10% of his annual income to charity through gifting publicly traded shares. He says the Alzheimer Society is one of his favourite charities.
Greenwood says making his annual donation is easy and it only requires a few simple steps. He hopes to continue giving increasing amounts each year.
Donations of shares can be made by transferring the shares to the charity instead of selling the shares and then donating the money.
Donating shares to charity eliminates tax on the capital gain, and still generates the tax credit. The full amount of the transfer is counted for the donation receipt, so the taxpayer receives back approximately 45% of the gift as a reduction in federal and provincial taxes.
David Christianson, Investment Advisor at Christianson Wealth Advisors and Vice President of National Bank Financial, says planned giving of larger donations doesn’t have to be complicated.
“It starts with your desire to give to an organization you care about and believe in. The rest of the steps are easy,” says Christianson.
Planned giving can be in the form of appreciated securities or shares, like Greenwood, by planning for a large bequest in your will, or by donating a new or existing insurance policy. Christianson suggests discussing gifting options with the charity and your financial advisor.
While these types of large donations benefit the Alzheimer Society, planned gifts like Greenwood’s also provide a tax benefit to the donor.
Christianson says gifts like Greenwood’s are becoming increasingly common among the general public, simply because more people are thinking about how they can give back to the community while also understanding the value of the tax benefits.
Donations like Greenwood’s help the Alzheimer Society to provide information, support and education to individuals living with Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia, their families and the general public. Donations also fund research into the cause, cure and care of people with dementia.
“I have the ability to give and I encourage others who have the financial ability to do the same,” says Greenwood.
If you are interested in giving to the Alzheimer Society of Manitoba, click here to learn ways to donate or call 204-943-6622.
Where do I begin: Support Groups
Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia can leave those with the disease and their caregivers feeling isolated. It’s important to remember that you are not alone and there are other people to share the journey with you.
The Alzheimer Society of Manitoba offers weekly support groups for people living with dementia and monthly groups for caregivers. The groups give members the opportunity to talk openly with others experiencing similar challenges.
Currently there are three weekly support groups for people living with dementia and 30 monthly support groups for caregivers province wide.
Karen Lambert, coordinator of the Society’s North Central Region office runs monthly support groups for caregivers in her region.
Karen says the support groups give caregivers an opportunity to share what’s going on in their lives and brainstorm solutions to frustrations they might be encountering.
Karen also provides new and relevant information for caregivers about research, education opportunities and caregiver resources.
The groups also provide caregivers an opportunity to share experiences with other caregivers who may have already encountered a situation.
“Often times people are at different parts of their journey and those who have already encountered something may be able to offer advice and support,” Karen says.
No matter where caregivers are on their journey, Karen hopes her support groups provide them with encouragement.
“I hope caregivers leave feeling positive and knowing that they’re not alone in their situation,” Karen says.
Colleen Leslie lives in Austin, Manitoba and has been attending the caregiver support group in MacGregor for about a year. Her mother was diagnosed with Vascular Dementia almost two years ago.
Colleen says the group provides her with a network of support from people in similar situations.
“It’s nice to sit around with people that understand,” she says.
Colleen says the information she receives from the group and the tips from other caregivers who have already encountered particular situations have been helpful.
“I look forward to the monthly meetings and have been encouraging anyone in a similar role to attend with me,” she says.
To find a Provincial or Regional support group in your area or for more information on our programs and services, click here or call 204-943-6622 (Winnipeg) or 1-800-378-6699 (outside of Winnipeg).
This story is part two of a four part series highlighting some of the programs and services offered by the Alzheimer Society of Manitoba. Watch the January eNewsletter for an article on Family Education.
Making your room a home
John Walker has a collection of 30 hats displayed perfectly in place on top of his dresser. His favorite hat has a wolf and nature scene on the front, and is the only hat he wears. John, 61, has Alzheimer’s disease and lives at Irene Baron Eden Centre supportive housing. His hat display, along with his other favourite things, make his room feel more like home.
John’s daughter, Corinne Hoes, wanted to recreate what her dad’s home was like prior to his move.
“We brought everything that was important to him. Dad likes to collect hats and little trinkets of animals, so we pretty much brought all that over. We also hung up pictures on the wall. We recreated what he had before, but in a smaller area,” says Corinne.
Moving to a new place can bring many changes, including a new environment, and new faces and routines. Personalizing your family member’s living space gives a sense of the familiar and can help make the transition easier and more comfortable.
Karen Loch is the Dementia Program Manager at Irene Baron Eden Centre and River East Personal Care Home. Karen recommends a resident’s space be familiar. She says the things in the room should introduce you to the person as soon as you walk in.
“Bring things for the room that are recognizable and known to the person, so when you walk in you know it’s something they would like to talk about,” says Karen.
On top of familiarity, families should also keep function and safety in mind. An uncluttered space is important to help prevent falls and other injuries. Keeping function in mind, a chair needs arm rests for comfort but the arm rests also need to be the proper height so the person can raise themselves from the chair. Beds also need to come to the back of the knee when a person is sitting on them. These guidelines will help prevent falls as the person stands up.
“Families often buy new furniture for the room. While this is ok, the new furniture should be of a style or appearance similar to their old furniture,” says Karen.
Photographs of times when the person felt safe and secure will also help them feel safe and secure in their new home. John’s room includes pictures of Corinne and himself on Corinne’s wedding day, his other two children and a picture of Snow Lake. The photographs launch John into storytelling.
“Dad doesn’t remember a lot about my childhood. Right now he likes to talk a lot about old stories of where he grew up in Snow Lake,” says Corinne. “He also reads the newspaper all the time. If he likes something he’s read, he cuts it out and pastes it on the wall.”
A move can be stressful. Special, personalized touches will help put the new or current resident at ease and make their room feel more like home.
Families and friends can take an active part in reminiscence activities. Some ways to assist in remembering stories are:
• Ask questions about the past using open-ended questions such as, “What was it like to celebrate Christmas on the farm?”. Encourage the person to share as many stories and experiences as they wish. The person will feel pride when they are able to contribute to the conversation.
• Stimulate as many senses as possible. Have something for the person to look at, listen to, taste, smell or feel. Personal objects that appeal to the senses can enhance recall. Look at holiday photos, listen to seasonal music or serve freshly baked gingerbread cookies – these will help the person reminisce about the holidays.
• Keep it simple. Focus on one topic at a time. Use short and simple sentences. Help the person to recall meaningful events and share them.
• Find common ground. Choose a topic that appeals to both of you and the person with dementia will find comfort in the interaction.
• Use reminiscence often. The activity can be used at any visit or during regular caregiving tasks.
Relationships are maintained as people enjoy moments together. Reminiscing can be a rewarding experience for both you and the person with dementia, while enhancing self-expression and ability to communicate.
Upcoming Family Education
Living with Alzheimer’s Disease or Another Dementia Workshop
Saturday, January 25 & Saturday, February 1, 2014
9 am – 2 pm
Seine River Retirement Residence
1015 St. Anne’s Rd (map)
Click here to register
Click here for poster
Caregivers needed for research study
Researchers from the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute are looking for people who care for someone with Alzheimer’s disease to share their experiences through a questionnaire. This information will be used to create guidelines to help designers and engineers understand the needs and requirements of people with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers, which will help them to build better technologies.
If you are a caregiver for a person with Alzheimer’s disease who:
- provides at least 7 hours/week of unpaid care to a person with Alzheimer’s,
- can speak, read, and write fluently in English, and
- is not a formally trained caregiver (e.g. registered nurse)
then you are invited to share your experiences through a questionnaire.
Holiday Gift Ideas
Consider purchasing a Forget Me Not necklace or Forget Me Not warmer, sponsoring a Touch Quilt or making a monetary donation.
Door to Door Campaign
Canvassers have the entire month of January to complete their canvassing route. Canvass routes typically include 25 to 30 houses. If you can spare an hour or two canvassing a street in your neighbourhood, please click here to register as a canvasser online or call 204-943-6622 in Winnipeg or 1-800-378-6699 in Manitoba.
January Awareness Free Public Education Event
Dementia… Answers You Need
Join an expert panel as they discuss the following topics:
- Memory changes and dementia
- Benefits of early diagnosis
- Risk factor reduction
- Treatment options
The event will take place Wednesday, January 29 from 7 to 8:30 pm in the Sam N. Cohen Auditorium at St. Boniface Hospital Research Centre. Click here to register online or call 204-943-6622.
Crestview United Event
Crestview United Church invites people with dementia and their caregivers to Memory Café. The Memory Café is a place where people affected by dementia can socialize and have fun with other people going through similar experiences.
Please join Crestview United Church (316 Hamilton Ave, Winnipeg, Manitoba) for the first Memory Café on January 15, 2014 from 10:30 am to 12 pm. Memory Café meetings will continue to take place the third Wednesday of every month.
For more information, contact Crestview United Church at 204-832-0475 or Susan Gustafson at 204-831-7665 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Night to Remember in Ireland Gala
Join us for a gourmet meal, live and silent auctions and entertainment.
Sponsor a table for 10 for $2000 with sponsorship benefits, or purchase tickets for $200 each.