The holidays are stressful for people who are in peak performance. For people afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers the holiday season might seem overwhelmingly difficult to navigate. First, there appears little for which to feel grateful. Second, there is a contrasting reminder that an exaggerated joy inhabits the world of those not afflicted with Alzheimer’s. Third, there could be overwhelming stimulation that neither patient nor caregiver can handle. Coping strategies are vital.
Every stressor makes up a story about the facts. When the narrative contains tragic elements, the story inevitably becomes sad and defeating. If the narrative is uplifting, people are encouraged to adapt and grow toward the light. In stress management perception functions as a primary tool for reframing a negative scenario into a more manageable, revitalized one to regain control and unleash a natural energy for personal empowerment.
How do you create a more positive narrative for Alzheimer’s?
- You focus on what the person afflicted with Alzheimer’s still can do.
- Exercise becomes part of the daily schedule for both caregiver and patient. Exercise is being studied and praised for its ability to build new brain cells, improve activities of daily living which foster independence and balance to generate better overall health for virtually every bodily process. Exercise is the most efficient way to shed stress hormones.
- You play music and sing songs together. Music is a great persuader improving mood and memory. Holiday songs evoke locked away positive memories. Singing relieves stress more efficiently than listening to music.
- You redirect patient and personal “why me” anger to humor and gratefulness. Create the story of gradually letting go of the past to experience the intensity of the present, in other words living in the moment. Note that one moment can be bad and the next one better.
- You take care of yourself and the patient – first. This means simplifying holiday traditions, and creating some new ones that are easier to manage. Honor your natural rhythm to reduce agitation.
- Holiday eating means healthy eating. An Alzheimer’s brain and the stressed brain of a caregiver need to adhere to a Mediterranean Diet. Junk food, processed food, and erratic eating habits do not fuel the brain or help improve mood. This does not mean that you cannot enjoy a few holiday treats, but overall you should be eating quality meals.
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