December 3, 2018 8:21 pm

The holiday season is a great opportunity to get your loved one involved. Yet, for many people is an overwhelming time of year. However, if you approach the holidays the right way there are many opportunities to get your loved one engaged.

Simple activities such as helping decorate the tree or singing along to holiday songs may create the right environment for your loved one to have a sense of meaning and purpose.

By including them in these simple activities, there is an opportunity to foster healthy socialization, physical movement, cognitive stimulation, and eat tasty brain-boosting treats.

Here are a few suggestions that you can do over the holiday season which are based on the CERTUS SPIN (Social, Physical, Intellectual, and Nutritional) philosophy:

Social: The holiday season provides a great opportunity for socializing- whether it is at a holiday dinner or taking part in a food drive. Socialization is key to keeping your loved one alert and boosting neurogenesis in the brain. Beyond the cognitive benefits that socialization offers, there is a therapeutic aspect in staying social.

Research shows that those who stay social express fewer feelings of loneliness and depression. Try to involve your loved one in small (and for some large) social events throughout the holiday season. Encourage others to engage your loved one just as they always have. Although, they may feel unsure of how to interact with your loved one, assure them they are safe and cared for by their loved ones.

Physical: Short burst of exercises and moment are very healthy for the body and brain. If your loved one is able to – bring them shopping. Walking around a store, even for 10-15 minutes has an overall health benefit. By stimulating the body, you are stimulating the brain.

Keep in mind that they may need somewhere to sit and that you should consider going on off hours (such as during the day when people are working and children are in school). A mall may be a good option for this as there are many benches and seating throughout.

Including your loved one in decorating the holiday tree can provide a good opportunity for range of motion and physical exertion. These activities foster muscle memory as well as releasing endorphins that make us feel good.

Intellectual: Encourage your loved one to help make lists, to organize decorations, or even help the budget the money for the grocery shopping list. Get their input on gift ideas for those on your list. Giving someone with dementia 1-2 choices can keep them from being overwhelmed yet still feel a part of the holiday process.

Remember, research shows that when you challenge your brain, it keeps your neurons healthy. The family members looking for gifts to give to those with Dementia should consider simple items that will encourage memories such as decks of cards, music players, or assist the individual to create or locate family favorite recipes that can be given as a gift. Gift giving should be kept simple and enjoyable.

Nutritional: There are many tasty ideas you can use to foster brain health. Keeping your loved one hydrated and encouraging them to snack on brain-boosting treats is imperative.

For many, healthy snacks and staying hydrated may improve focus, concentration, and reduce agitation. Here are a few delectable ideas to include this holiday season:

  • Pear, Pomegranate, Clove infused water
  • Pumpkin Cornbread (cinnamon)
  • Super Food Hot Chocolate (Cinnamon and chocolate is great for a mood boost and antioxidants)
  • Roasted Berry Oatmeal (uses cinnamon)
  • Apple Ginger Lemongrass infused water
  • Oatmeal bake with Blackberries and Ginger
  • Dark Chocolate Bark

Most importantly, enjoy the holiday with your loved one. Their moments of joy will lead to happier holidays for all. Take time to savor the time of year and make every moment matter.

By Joshua Freitas, M.Ed., BC-DEd, CAEd (Vice President of Program Development); Theodosia Heiserman, DP-NC (Resident Engagement Director | CERTUS at Mount Dora); & Andrea Silvey, ADC-MC, DP-NC (Resident Engagement Director | CERTUS at Orange City

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This post was written by Kim Smith