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SENIOR SOURCE: Caring for those with Alzheimer's disease around the holidays

Our Senior Source partners, the Alzheimer's Alliance of Smith County have some tips to help.

SMITH COUNTY, Texas — We are heading into the holidays, which can be a difficult time for people living with Alzheimer's disease and those who are caring for them. Then, you factor in the pandemic this year, it is a lot to take on. 

Our Senior Source partners at the Alzheimer's Alliance of Smith County are ready to help.

"It can be a really difficult, stressful time and especially with the COVID pandemic, that just makes it, you know, even that much more stressful for people," explained Stephanie Taylor, Alzheimer's Alliance Executive Director.  "So, then when you're dealing with an Alzheimer's diagnosis and heightened risk for spreading the virus and especially in older adults with underlying conditions, it can really be a struggle for caregivers on how to make the holidays really special. It can also change the person living with dementia and make it you know, a little bit more difficult time."

Our Senior Source partners have this advice to get through the holidays, "I think just changing your expectations, you know, this is going to be different season and dealing with such a difficult illness on top of it. So, adjust your expectations, modify some of your traditions, create safe spaces, simplify your decorations, adapt holiday activities, prepare together, plan meaningful things for that person, play their favorite holiday music, just really try to simplify and it's going to make things so much better for the person living with dementia."

The Alzheimer's Alliance of Smith County can also assist caregivers who need a break this time of year. 

"So, the Alliance offers an in-home respite program. So, if you're caring for someone living with Alzheimer's or related dementia at home, we can actually provide a scholarship and have someone a trained caregiver come into the home so you can go out and get holiday shopping done or maybe, you know, eat with your friend at your favorite restaurant. Those are things that you should do for yourself and take time for yourself," Taylor said.

Programs are also offered to keep East Texans safe. 

"A lot of times we'll see people who are living with dementia may wander or have a tendency to wander, especially if they've been isolated in their home due to COVID precautions and so, we have a program called Project Lifesaver. It's a location bracelet and a partnership with the sheriff's office. So, if you hear your loved one start saying things like I want to go home, but they're at home, you really need to give us a call and learn more about that program. And then, we have a counselor here in the office and a social worker who can do telephone consults with you if you're just feeling really anxious or depressed. Please give us a call because we do have support services that can help," said Taylor.

You can contact the Alzheimer's Alliance of Smith County at (903) 509-8323 or visit ALZAlliance.org.