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Holiday Hints: How Dementia Caregivers Can Celebrate Special Occasions

For most of us, the holidays are a time for family and friends, good spirits and good food. However, for those living with a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or other form of dementia, the holiday season also brings special concerns and challenges.

How will mom react to the bright lights and decorations? Can we still have company or will dad become agitated and stressed? Will visitors be uncomfortable if mom no longer recognizes them? Will we have to change our holiday traditions?

Says Crystal Yost, PCHA, PCH, Administrator at Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr located in Bryn Mawr, PA, “These are just a few of the questions that families coping with dementia typically deal with. However, the good news is that with proper preparation and advanced planning, you can still retain the most important elements of the holiday season while keeping your loved one with dementia calm and engaged in the holiday cheer.”

Holiday Tips for Celebrating with Your Loved One with Dementia

Crystal adds, “The Alzheimer’s Association and the Mayo Clinic offer expert tips that can enable the person with dementia to enjoy the holidays while still maintaining the joy of the season for your family For starters, they say, focus on the real meaning of the holidays and the things your family holds most dear.”

Specific tips include:

  1. Modify your expectations – Be realistic about what you can do this year as both a holiday host and caregiver, and consider what your loved one with dementia can tolerate. For example, some loved ones may withdraw and be less comfortable socializing with others. 
  2. Prepare in advance – Prepare your loved one with dementia well before the holidays begin. If they are capable, talk to them about their favorite holiday activities and include them in your planning. Identify a private “sanctuary” that they can retreat to if they find things too hectic. Also, avoid giving them alcohol as it can cause depression.
  3. Inform others about your loved one’s dementia– Educate other family members and friends about your loved one’s dementia and their changes and limitations. Let them know what to expect and how to best communicate with your loved one to make their visit a pleasant one. 
  4. Focus on activities your loved one can still enjoy – You can still share the joy of the holidays by involving your loved one with dementia in activities they can enjoy. Take a car ride to see the holiday lights, sing or listen to holiday music, read cards together, bake cookies or hang ornaments.
  5. Avoid overstimulation – Loved ones with dementia can become anxious and agitated from holiday noise, bright lights and numerous guests in the home for parties. Therefore, limit your number of holiday guests and visitors at any one time and try to keep your home environment calmer and more subdued this year.
  6. Tone down your decorations – Avoidblinking lights or large decorative displays that can cause confusion. Also, lighted candles, decorations that could be mistaken for edible treats and other safety hazards should be eliminated.​
  7. Maintain your loved one’s regular routine – Loved one’s with dementia do best when their normal routine is maintained. Therefore, try to keep them on schedule during the holiday season and make sure they are given time for breaks and rest. Individuals with dementia can be highly sensitive to the increased pace of activity around them. 
  8. Adjust your gift ideas – Focus onsafe and useful gifts for the person with dementia. Their condition may make some gifts unusable or even dangerous to them. Suitable gifts might include favorite music, videos and movies, comfortable pillows, photo albums of family and friends, and stuffed animal toys.
  9. Say yes to help – Relatives and friends often want to help, but aren’t quite sure how. Take them up on their offers this holiday and be very specific as to what they can do, e.g., “Please take mom to her doctor’s appointment next Wednesday.” 

Another way you can ask for help is to request a gift certificate for respite care, which provides caregivers with welcome time away from their caregiving duties while offering loved ones with dementia compassionate care and support provided within in a safe, nurturing environment.

We encourage you to contact us with any questions you have on dementia care or to schedule a tour. Also, we invite you to read our timely blog articles on current caregiver and dementia care topics posted on our website.

We Would Love to Hear from You!

If you have comments or questions about our blog, Holiday Hints: How Dementia Caregivers Can Celebrate Special Occasions, we’d love to hear from you. We also encourage you to share any of your caregiving experiences in our comments section.

Engaging Days. Meaningful Moments.

Loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease or other memory impairments require specialized care and support. They also deserve a lifestyle rich in dignity and fulfillment. Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr provides residents with Engaging Days and Meaningful Moments that emphasize individual abilities, encourage socialization and promote the highest level of independence possible. We offer a complete continuum of leading-edge programs, services and amenities that address the total physical, emotional and social needs of residents in a caring setting that offers individual suites with large private baths and the comfort of home. Our memory care community touches hearts and changes lives.

Helping Families Be “Family” Again.

Memory loss caused by Alzheimer’s disease, dementia or another form of memory impairment doesn’t only affect the person who has it – it affects the entire family.

If you have a loved one with early- to mid-stage memory loss, you know how challenging it can be to provide the care that’s needed while trying to maintain balance in your life. As care needs increase, you may not be able to meet them physically or emotionally. It’s often difficult to be available to care for your loved one’s health and well-being around the clock.

If and when the time comes to seek additional help, place your trust in Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr. We lift the stresses and worries of being a caregiver from your shoulders, enabling you and your family to enjoy time with your loved one again. 

For more information, please call Crystal at 484.380.5403 or contact us online. 

Disclaimer: The articles and tip sheets on this website are offered by Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr and Main Line Senior Care Alliance for general informational and educational purposes and do not constitute legal or medical advice. For legal or medical advice, please contact your attorney or physician.