7 Tips to Make the Holiday Season Dementia Friendly

The holiday season is a meaningful time for family and friends to reconnect with one another over special traditions and celebrations. These celebrations that honor the past can be reassuring for those with Alzheimer’s and dementia. The holiday season is a festive time full of laughter and joyful memories, but it can be a stressful time for those with dementia and their caregivers.

A person living with Alzheimer’s may feel a sense of loss during the holidays because of the changes he or she experienced. Caregivers may feel overwhelmed by maintaining traditions while providing care and adhering to safety precautions as well as a sense of frustration and anxiousness. By adjusting expectations and modifying some traditions, you may find meaningful ways to celebrate the holidays.

Here are 7 tips you can do to minimize stress and make this holiday season a peaceful affair:

  • Prepare the guest
    • Coping with dementia-related illnesses during the holidays affects everyone, including your guests. If you’re planning to have friends and family in your home or are going to be in a place where guests are meeting your loved one for the first time, it’s important to prepare them ahead of time. Remind everyone that your loved one may not remember what is expected and acceptable. It’s up to you to prepare guests for unusual behaviors such as incontinence, wandering, or sundowning.
  • Prepare the person with Alzheimer’s
    • It is common for those living with dementia to feel overwhelmed by their memory loss, especially when they can’t remember who people are and/or how they are related. To help avoid this, caregivers may start showing photos and arranging phone or video calls with visitors a week to prior to their arrival. This will help your loved one become familiarized with visitors and help manage expectations for both parties.
  • Create a safe and calm space
    • To create an appropriate environment during the holidays for the person with dementia, you may want to consider:
      • Avoiding safety hazards – substitute electric candles for burning candles. If you light candles, don’t leave them unattended. Avoid fragile decorations or decorations that could be mistaken for edible treats, such as artificial fruits.
      • Tone down decorations – avoid blinking lights or large decorative displays that can cause confusion. Avoid decorations that cause clutter or require you to rearrange a familiar room.
    • If you’re hosting guests in your home, choose one room in the house that is specifically designed for your loved one to rest if things become too chaotic. You may even consider creating a “quiet room” where the person with dementia can go if the gathering becomes too overwhelming and where they can take a nap.
  • Adjust expectations
    • The stress of caregiving responsibilities plus holiday traditions can be overwhelming. Invite family and friends to a conversation ahead of time. Be honest about any limitations or needs, such as keeping a daily routine or making modifications to plans to minimize holiday stress. Communicate realistic expectations about what you can and cannot do. The goal here is time together.
  • Pace activities and engagement
    • Plan a gathering at the best time of the day for the person with dementia. Be mindful of what your loved one living with dementia participates in if managing a long gathering is too much. To help create dementia-friendly holidays, you may have to make slight adjustments to activities and traditions to meet their needs. If you’ll be attending a holiday gathering, plan to be brief or come up with a contingency plan if necessary.
  • Involve the person living with dementia
    • Focus on activities, traditions, and memories that are meaningful to the person living with dementia such as:
      • When making holiday plans, consider what would be most comfortable and enjoyable for the person living with dementia, while keeping safety in mind. Maintain the person’s normal routine as much as possible, so that holiday preparations don’t become disruptive or confusing.
      • Build on traditions and memories and try new traditions that might be less stressful or a better fit with your caregiving responsibilities, such as watching seasonal movies or playing seasonal songs.
  • Take care of yourself
    • One of the most important parts of caregiving is taking care of yourself. Set realistic expectations for what you can contribute to family holiday celebrations. Ask a family member or friend to give you a break so that you can enjoy a holiday outing without caregiving responsibilities.

During the holidays it’s okay to ask for help from family members, friends, or home health agencies like LifeWorx so that you can enjoy some time for yourself and the holidays. Our top priority is ensuring our clients find peace of mind and have a good quality of life. If you would like to learn more about how our caregivers can help your family or cope with dementia during the holidays, please contact us today.

Stay tuned for our next article: 7 Thoughtful Gift Ideas For The Special Senior in Your Life

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