Springfield woman shares tips on working with Alzheimer’s, dementia during the holiday season

KOLR10 Daybreak

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Getting ready to celebrate the holidays can be stressful, but imagine what it’s like for families dealing with Alzheimer’s or dementia?

OzarksFirst spoke with Barbara Beezley, who says she knows that feeling. Her mother, Jean, has dementia.

Beezley says others going through a similar situation should do what’s best for their loved one: have patience.

“Don’t argue with your loved one, don’t yell at them and if they have a story that they’re telling, let them tell that story,” Beezley said. “You have the tendency to want to correct them. They’ll say, ‘Uncle Charlie was just here.’ It’s comforting to them because they think that’s true. Well, Uncle Charlie died 20 years ago, so he couldn’t have been. You try to correct them, they get more scared, and they get more upset. If you just let them tell their stories or let them be where they think they are, it’s a lot easier for them even though it’s hard on you.”

Beezley says her family doesn’t celebrate the holidays with Jean anymore because she gets upset when she cannot recognize everyone.

“As hard as it is on your family and as hard as it is to watch them ‘go away,’ you really have to let them because it’s easier on them,” Beezley said.

Jeremy Koerber, an education program manager at the Alzheimer’s Association of Greater Missouri, has advice for families who are still preparing to be with their loved ones this holiday season. Koerber says people should consider three things: the person diagnosed, their caregiver and family members who haven’t seen their loved one in a long time.

Also, Koerber says families should think about having a different approach to holiday traditions.

“I like holiday lights. I bet you like holiday lights. But, for someone living with dementia, that’s information overload,” Koerber said. “That can cause behaviors to erupt. Plan out what’s going to happen, what days and when because we need to be building in periods of rest for these individuals. They need downtime, not just their bodies but their brains as well. It’s not just as simple as, ‘Here are the things that you need to do.’ It’s multi-layered. You’re taking the same concepts that we would talk to you about at any given time of the year, but now we have to start to put in other layers because it’s the holidays. It’s super important to have these conversations now.”

The Alzheimer’s Association will host two free online programs about this topic on November 10 at 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.

To register for either virtual session, you can do one of the following:

  • Call 800-272-3900.
  • Visit tinyurl.com/alzjoyam for the 10 a.m. course.
  • Visit tinyurl.com/alzjoypm for the 6 p.m. course.

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