Holiday Hazards: What to Watch for When a Loved One Has Alzheimer’s

holidays_alzheimers Photo Credit: mysza831 via Compfight cc

Decking the halls is a traditional part of the holiday season for most families in Connecticut. When an aging loved one lives with Alzheimer’s disease or a related form of dementia, however, the holidays can create additional risks – often in the most unexpected of ways.

Here are a few holiday hazards to watch for this year:

  • Large, animated characters that light up and play music may be disorienting to someone with dementia. They may not understand the decorations aren’t real and be frightened by them.
  • For those who want to celebrate Christmas with a decorated tree, stick with non-twinkling lights on it. Blinking or twinkling lights may cause over-stimulation and agitation for your loved one with Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Problems with balance and gait are more and more common as Alzheimer’s disease progresses. It puts those living with the disease at an increased risk for falls. Make sure that holiday decorations don’t add to that risk. Some things to look for are extension cords running through traffic areas and decorations or furniture moved in to pathways.
  • Watch the noise level during holiday parties or gatherings at your home. Loud background noise can create agitation in someone with Alzheimer’s disease. If the volume seems to be creeping up in your house, take your loved one to a quieter area of the house and turn on soft, relaxing music.
  • Be careful of holiday plants that are poisonous if ingested. Holly and mistletoe are two beware of decorating with this year.
  • Many of us use candles to light a buffet table or as part of a holiday centerpiece. Having an open flame around someone who has impaired judgment presents a safety hazard. Use battery operated candles instead for now.
  • Be wary of holiday décor that looks or smells good enough to eat. For someone with dementia, they may seem like a holiday treat. Scented candles, decorations scented with gingerbread, and faux sugared fruits should all be avoided.

We hope these tips help you and your family enjoy a safe and happy holiday season! 

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