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5773 marks the beginning of another year. 5.5 million Americans have dementia. A good number of them are Jewish. What can you do to make someone with dementia feel good this Rosh Hashanah?
How celebrating this holy day helps uplift their spirit and yours
Here are some suggestions
Pray with them.
Most folks with dementia have strong ties to their religion. Even those with advanced dementia may spontaneously recite portions of a prayer service that was part of their past.
The problem may be to find a service that is appropriate. The traditional service is long and crowded.
Here are a few suggestions
*Go at the beginning or end of the service. That is when the least amount of congregants is in attendance.
*Contact some assisted living or nursing homes in the area. Many of them have short simple services highlighting the important prayers. This is a win, win situation. You can see what a place is like, and most often, activity directors love having visitors attend group activities. It makes all involved feel good. If this is not possible, have a short service at home. If you explain the situation to the Rabbi, he or she will let you borrow or buy a prayer book. He may even drop by for a visit. Alternatively, you can find some prayers online. Make sure to include some songs in your service or just sing the songs throughout the holiday. A good song might be: Shalom Aleichem
Carry on a family tradition
All families have something special they do during the high holidays. Of course, most families go to a synagogue. What about after that? Maybe you went to Aunt Betty’s. Aunt Betty may no longer be around, but you can recreate the atmosphere that was there. Invite one or two understanding friends to help you with this. The memories of visiting Aunt Betty will be there
Related to this is talking about past experiences on Rosh Hashanah or other holidays.
Discuss what happened at Aunt Betty’s. Regale a story about a funny experience that took place at Aunt Betty’s.
Do not ask: Do you remember?, but rather, just tell the story and let your loved one with dementia add comments. Talk about family members both past and present. You might say: "When Uncle Harry shook the table, he made us all laugh". Tell some jokes and laugh some more. Laughter is the best medicine
Eat a traditional meal or foods together
This activity can wake up the taste buds of a dementia person. Before the holiday, discuss the recipes. Talk about different ingredients you need. Prepare a simple recipe together. Plan the meal. Ask: What should we eat first?etc.
Have him or her help set the table or fold the napkins.
You can talk about favorite family foods. Then make sure you have some of these favorites during the actual meal.
No matter what you do the goal is to make your loved one with dementia, feel good. Do not be a stickler for the rules. Reward good tries. If you feel a need to go to a traditional service, hire someone or have a friend go with you. If the service is too much for the dementia person, the friend can take him for a walk or take him home. Often congregants feel a need to take a break from the service whether they have dementia or not.
With some planning, this Rosh Hashanah, 5773, can be a good one for you and your loved one with dementia
Alzheimer's ideas page 5