Dementia expert offers holiday tips - Your West Valley News: Health

Dementia expert offers holiday tips

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Posted: Monday, December 16, 2013 1:15 pm

The holiday season provides an ideal setting for reunions with family and friends, but it can also pose a unique set of challenges for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia.

As loved ones get together to celebrate this year, modifications for a safe and enjoyable celebration are needed to ensure older relatives are protected. Marty Finley, a dementia expert for Sun Health’s Memory Care Navigator program, has spent 20 years of her career focusing on the needs of families coping with dementia. Finley offers these top five practical and simple tips for keeping those impacted by dementia out-of-harm’s way and happy throughout the holidays:

• Consider the emotional impact. The holidays can be especially difficult for individuals with dementia because it can bring a sudden change in environment and routine. Suddenly the individual with dementia is in someone else’s home and there are a lot of people, a lot of noise and other stimuli. It can be overwhelming.

• Remove throw rugs and area rugs. While these decorative touches provide an added design element to a room or empty space, they can also create a falling hazard.

• Exercise planning restraint. Take a conservative approach to activity planning. A smaller guest list and a lighter itinerary of holiday activities can minimize the opportunity for over stimulation and increased confusion for a dementia patient.

• Be aware of steps and changes of elevation. Even if it’s only a single-step drop into a living room or den, when someone’s judgment is impaired by dementia, a single step may present more of a hazard than an entire flight of stairs.

• Scale back the knick-knacks. Clutter often creates problems for people with Alzheimer’s, particularly when found in pathways. Make sure extension cords are also tucked away to avoid tripping and falling hazards.

Sun Health’s nonprofit Memory Care Navigator program offers personalized support for patients and families affected by memory loss, including assessments and confidential consultations, a personalized plan of care, links to vital education and support resources closer to home, coordination between families and physicians and ongoing support.

To learn more, call 623-832-9300 or visit

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