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With covid-19 surging across the country, families are struggling with decisions about the coming holiday season -- weighing concerns about the safety of traveling and gathering with the desire to spend time with friends and relatives.

For families who have a loved one with Alzheimer's or another dementia, these decisions are even harder, especially since many families have forgone visits with grandparents, parents and older relatives since covid-19 began.

While dementia does not increase the risk of covid, dementia-related behaviors, increased age and common health conditions that often accompany dementia, increase risk.

"The emotional pull to see and spend time with these loved ones during the holidays is felt very keenly," says Kirsten Dickens, executive director for the Alzheimer's Association Arkansas Chapter.

"We want to help families make the most informed decisions they can and find new ways to make the holidays special this season."

The key is to begin to have family discussions right now to allow enough time to make arrangements and adjustments, and communicate with a loved one.

The Alzheimer's Association created this guide of tips and things to consider in their decision-making.

These tips include how to plan and prepare for the holidays, such as:

• Schedule a family Zoom or FaceTime to talk about coming holiday celebrations and visiting a loved one with dementia. If there is a family member serving as the primary caregiver for the loved one, be sure to include them in the discussion.

• Consult the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention official covid-19 guidelines for the latest recommendations on visits with individuals deemed higher risk/vulnerable.

• Think about what is best for the person with dementia and assess risks of various options for family gatherings and in-person visits.

• Reach a consensus among family members and make a decision for the holidays that everyone supports.

• Detail how you'll celebrate the season and divvy up responsibilities and assignments to make it happen.

The Alzheimer's Association is also providing practical advice and creative ideas to help families plan appropriately for a meaningful and enjoyable holiday season, such as:

• Virtual holiday celebration ideas.

• How to make plans for a safer in-person visit.

• Communication tips for communicating holiday plans.

• How to support a caregiver you won't be seeing over the holidays.

• Gift ideas for a loved one with dementia and a family caregiver.

• Making the holiday meaningful for a loved one in a long-term care community.

By following some of these tips, families can appropriately celebrate wisely and safely this year.

To read more about navigating the holidays this year, visit alz.org/arhelp.

The Alzheimer's Association is a worldwide voluntary health organization dedicated to Alzheimer's care, support and research.

Its mission is to lead the way to end Alzheimer's and all other dementia -- by accelerating global research, driving risk reduction and early detection, and maximizing quality care and support.

Visit alz.org or call 800-272-3900.

Jacob Simburger is the communications manager with the Alzheimer's Association's Arkansas chapter.

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