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Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia

How To Celebrate the Holidays with a Loved One Who Has Dementia

For many people, the holidays are a time of cheer and celebration, but this season can have its challenges. This is especially true for those caring for loved ones with Alzehimer’s or other forms of dementia. Caregivers may experience increased stress as they try to balance holiday festivities with a loved one’s care. Those with dementia may also feel overwhelmed by the changes and fast-paced nature of the season.

Here are some ways you can create a more pleasant season for yourself and your loved one and, in turn, experience a little more holiday cheer.

Manage Expectations

Expectations to keep up family traditions or host gatherings may add to your feelings of stress. It’s important to communicate what modifications you are making to traditions and educate loved ones as to why these accommodations–such as scheduling earlier events or limiting visitors–are necessary this year. 

As a caregiver, also be sure to set realistic expectations for yourself. Remember that you can’t do it all–and should not be expected to! Delegate or ask for help where you can.

Create a Soothing Space

Whether your loved one lives in a memory care community like The Stayton, or with you or a family member, keep decorative changes minimal. Avoid large displays or blinking lights, as these can confuse seniors with dementia. Also bypass potentially hazardous decorations, like burning candles, trees that aren’t secured to walls, fragile décor or faux foods that could be mistakenly eaten.

If you choose to attend or host a party or event, keep it brief and know that you and your loved one may need to leave or end the gathering early. Whether your celebration is at your home or someone else’s, ensure ahead of time that there’s a quiet room for your loved one to rest or relax if they need a break from the excessive stimulation. 

Prepare for (and Limit) Visitors

Feelings of isolation and loneliness can be common in older adults during the holidays, so it’s important to encourage family and friends to visit with your loved one. Schedule these visits at times when they are at their best or have visitors call ahead to ensure it’s a good day to stop by. Seniors with dementia are usually at their sharpest in the mornings, as sundowning may happen later in the day.

Update visitors ahead of time with any differences in memory or behavior since their last visit. Give them tips on how to communicate with your loved one, such as:

  • Listening patiently and not interrupting
  • Leaving enough time for the person with dementia to think and respond
  • Not criticizing or correcting repeated comments and errors

If spending time in person isn’t feasible, schedule a video chat to ensure your loved one gets some quality time with the people most special to them.

Adapt Holiday Activities

Adjusting family traditions and activities to match your loved one’s needs is a great way to keep the customs alive. Consider what traditions are most important for you, the person with dementia and your family members. Then, think about ways you can recreate these traditions to balance the needs, desires and enjoyment of all. For example, instead of having a late family dinner, opt for brunch instead. Or, simplify a large, elaborate party by swapping it for an intimate holiday meal with close family. 

You will also want to make time in the day for relaxation, as those with dementia can get overwhelmed in a fast-paced environment. It’s important to note that people with dementia thrive on routine, so you will want to plan events around this. 

Consider adding activities that have beneficial outcomes for people with Alzhiemer’s or other forms of dementia to your holiday itinerary. Ask them to spend time with you as you prepare for upcoming events or involve them in holiday baking or decorating. Listening to soothing music, taking a walk to enjoy outdoor holiday decor or baking cookies are other great ways to stimulate the senses. Reminiscing can also be comforting to those with dementia, so break out those old family photo albums and make time to admire their favorite seasonal keepsakes. 

Take Time To Savor the Experience 

Above all, ensure that you take time to enjoy each moment with your loved one during the holiday season. Practice being present and appreciating the time you get to spend with them. When you feel stressed, be intentional about making time for yourself so that you can be at your best during these special moments. 

Explore Memory Care at The Stayton 

At The Stayton, we provide exceptional memory care services to help seniors with dementia live a safe, stimulating and comfortable life here. Our team of highly-trained memory care specialists can give your loved one the exceptional and compassionate care they need, as well as access to enrichment programs and social events year-round. 

Contact us today to schedule a tour and see what life is like at The Stayton.

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