Joyful Holidays with Memory Lane TV: Navigating the Season for Loved Ones with Dementia

The holiday season can be stressful, especially for those taking care of a loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia. How can you host a family dinner while providing care? How will long distance family members handle a change in their loved one’s condition? Will the person with Alzheimer’s feel overwhelmed or agitated?

We’re excited to hear from Alban Maino, founder of Memory Lane TV, the Netflix for people living with dementia. Alban is an expert in multi-sensory engagement for individuals with Alzheimer’s and dementia. He founded Memory Lane TV 10 years ago after his grandmother had been diagnosed with dementia.

Alban understands that putting a person with Alzheimer’s or dementia in front of news channels or long movies might trigger unnecessary anxiousness and other behaviors that make caregiving even more stressful. Here, Alban has some great advice about how to get through holiday gatherings with joy….and provides our Trualta blog readers with a very special gift for that one hectic day with family and friends.

People with dementia and people without dementia are fundamentally the same, and what is important for us is even more important to them.

People with dementia and people without dementia are fundamentally the same, and what is important for us is even more important to them. We thrive when our needs are met and struggle when they aren’t. Dementia can slow the brain’s ability to process stimulation and can hamper one’s ability to recognize or communicate their needs. In some cases, it can take conscious effort to comprehend language or details that formerly the brain would have been able to handle subconsciously. This can be exhausting.

Essentially, people with dementia have a lot to cope with – along with an impaired ability to cope. That being said, care partners – people without dementia – often have a lot to cope with as well, especially when caring for others. Who do you care for? Your mom or dad? Your spouse? Your children? Caregivers come in countless configurations. In this long and complicated journey, we need help, we need tools, and we need education to understand what the best ways are to manage this life-changing adventure.

When I embarked on this journey with my grandmother, I knew I would succeed because I knew what made her happy. I knew how to bring a smile to her face. And as a cinematographer, I understand the power of music, images, and sounds, and how that can transport you to another world. Media can make one dream, feel good, and can transport the receiver into another time and space.

I wanted to use my expertise as a storyteller and a filmmaker to create a series of useful tools, adapted to what we needed in my family. I formed a team of experts from around the world and we started to research and analyze the state of art- and science-based studies on media and multi-sensory stimulation. We learned everything we could about how media and programming could be adapted to the various needs of the day. We wanted to be sure to see the day as care partners experience the hours. The result was an assemblage of content, photography, moving images, soundscapes, music, and even olfactory stimulation, the most direct pathway to the brain!

Engaging in meaningful activities can bring joy to individuals with dementia and it’s particularly important during the holiday season. We encourage care partners to include friends and members of the family including children in activities. Here are 10 simple examples of activities you can do with someone who has dementia on a holiday:

  1. Decorate Together: Engage in simple holiday decorations. Allow them to hang ornaments or place decorations on a small Christmas tree. This can evoke memories and create a festive atmosphere.
  2. Watch a Holiday Movie or Some Holiday-Related Content: Select a favorite holiday movie and enjoy watching it together. Choose something light-hearted and familiar to spark conversation and positive emotions.
  3. Listen to Music: Create a playlist of familiar holiday tunes. Music often has a powerful impact on memory and emotions, and it can be a wonderful way to reminisce and share joy.
  4. Baking or Cooking: Prepare simple holiday treats together. Even if it’s just mixing ingredients or shaping cookies, the sensory experience and the familiar scents can be enjoyable.
  5. Look at Photo Albums: Spend time going through old photo albums, reminiscing about past holidays and special moments. This can be a wonderful way to trigger memories and facilitate conversation.
  6. Christmas Crafts: Engage in simple holiday crafts like making paper snowflakes or decorating stockings. The focus is on the process and enjoyment rather than the final product.
  7. Read a Story: Choose a short, festive story or poem to read together. Reading can be a calming and enjoyable activity, and it may also stimulate conversation.
  8. Virtual Visits: If possible, arrange virtual visits with family and friends who may not be able to be there in person. This can provide a sense of connection and holiday spirit.
  9. Lighting the Menorah or Advent Candle: If applicable to their traditions, participate in lighting the menorah or Advent candle. This can be a simple and meaningful ritual.
  10. Nature Walk or Garden Stroll: Take a gentle walk outside or explore a garden with holiday decorations. Fresh air and a change of scenery can be invigorating.

It’s essential to tailor activities to the individual’s abilities and preferences, keeping in mind their comfort and well-being. Additionally, be flexible and patient, allowing the person to engage at their own pace while enjoying the shared moments.

From Memory Lane TV to you…

Sometimes following the plot of a movie might be confusing so we have put together a series of content typical for a day with Memory Lane TV. This is free to access and constitutes a good source of different videos that any caregiver could use during the day to generate some behavioral reactions from all viewers. Nature scenes can induce relaxation and dream; lunch and cooking shows before meals can incentivize appetite; quiz and reminiscence films can be a fun way to engage and interact in the afternoon; and towards the end of the day, our special collection of sundowning films can help to redirect attention to a peaceful and serene state.

The guided meditations, therapeutic soundscapes, natural images, and gentle multi-sensory stimulation featured throughout Memory Lane TV’s programming are proven by study after study to benefit us all, not just those with dementia. Memory Lane TV also has a 24/7 channel of content on top of the large collection of videos that can be personalized and tailored to each viewer.

Start engaging and watching programs that you and your guests will enjoy!

*If you have a streaming device such as Apple TV, Roku or Firestick, you can also download the app (more information here).

Here is the one-day collection gift to Trualta readers that you can start using on your TV or iPad for your special holiday* 

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