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Ways to cope with Alzheimer's during the holidays

Posted at 1:22 PM, Nov 27, 2019

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Caring for a loved one who has Alzheimer's disease can make the holidays more stressful, but a neurologist with Spectrum Health has tips to help festivities go smoothly.

"Holidays, big holiday gatherings, a lot of family, a lot of conversations, that can be overwhelming and they need to recognize that and take the Alzheimer's patient home early," Dr. Tim Thoits said.

Many Alzheimer's and dementia patients experience sundowning, which means they experience confusion later in the day. Having a Thanksgiving brunch or lunch, instead of a dinner can help work around sundowning.

The holidays can be extremely stressful for family members who are also caretakers for someone living with Alzheimer's.

"Care-giving is an incredibly incredible task that we ask families to go through," Thoits said.

If there are family members or friends who haven't seen the person who has Alzheimer's in a while, it's smart to give them a call before you see them to prepare them for their changes in appearance and behavior.

"We do see a lot of behavior and mood changes," Thoits said. "And usually what we hear is that they become more quiet. Less likely to initiate a conversation, less likely to carry out their normal hobbies or things they enjoy doing. There's also a stigma I think because almost everybody has met someone, knows someone who has gone through it and they see the devastation and they don't want to go through it, put their spouse through it, their family through it."

For more support for caretakers, free classes are offered on the second Friday of each month at the Spectrum Health Memory Disorders Clinic on the Beltline in Grand Rapids.