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Holiday Activities for Engaging Loved Ones with Memory Loss

When planning for the holidays with a loved one who has dementia, family members might not know how to proceed. Concerns about how disruptions in routine could cause more harm than good, the logistics of making the holiday celebration as safe as possible and what the family should talk about with their loved one is a lot to handle. Taking careful safety measures, keeping the needs of the person with memory loss in mind and communicating with other family members will make the holidays a more enjoyable time for you and your family.

“There are plenty of holiday activities for loved ones with memory loss,” says Sam Streater, Program Director of Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr, located in Bryn Mawr, PA. “From reminiscing to more in-the-moment activities, it’s an opportunity to get creative and figure out the most engaging and meaningful ways to interact with your loved one.”

Always be mindful of the environment for the holidays. It should be well-lit and have clear walkways with all electrical cords safely tucked away. If stairs are an issue, place gates in front of them.

Holiday Activities

The holidays don’t have to stop because a loved one has dementia. Many holiday traditions can remain the same because of their familiarity, involvement and fun.

  • Decorate – Trimming your holiday tree, admiring the festive lights and hanging up wreaths are good ways to spend quality time together while offering your loved one visual cues that it’s the holiday season.
  • Cook/Bake –Depending on the level of ability and safety, people with memory loss can participate in cooking and baking. Helping with ingredients or rolling out dough for cookies is an inclusive and meaningful way to involve them, especially if they used to cook or bake by themselves in the past.
  • Setting Up –Getting the table ready by assembling cutlery, folding napkins and placing the dishes will let the person with dementia feel helpful and give them a sense of independence.
  • Listen to Holiday Music –Singing songs with family, even in the late stages of dementia, can sometimes evoke get a positive reaction.
  • Photographs –Going through photographs of past holidays is an opportunity to bring up old stories and trigger memories for the person with memory loss.

Another important thing to remember is how to communicate. Phrasing sentences a bit differently can mean all the difference to a person with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of memory loss. When bringing up something from the past, don’t ask the person with memory loss if he or she remembers. Replace, “Do you remember when” with “I remember when,” and then go into the story. It takes the pressure off of the person with dementia to remember something and doesn’t give them the opportunity to become confused or embarrassed. With the phrase “I remember when,” it places the focus on the person telling the story so the person with memory loss can listen and laugh along with other members of the family. 

Safety Tips

In addition to keeping walkways well-lit and free of obstacles, there are a few other safety precautions to take:

  • Label –Consider labeling rooms and objects to help the person with memory loss move around with more ease.
  • Enlist an Extra Caregiver –There should be a caregiver with the person with memory loss to help make sure their holidays are as enjoyable as possible. However, the caregiver will probably need to take a break, so have another trusted family member on hand to help during these times.
  • Stick to the Routine –Since seniors with dementia usually have a routine that is good for them to stick to, plan holiday activities around it. If their energy and comfort levels are higher during the late morning/early afternoon, then do the holiday activities around that time.

Holiday activities with people who have dementia should be done in an understanding and caring environment. With careful planning and communication within the family, they have reassurance that they will be safe. Their involvement with the family and helping to make the holidays happen will boost their confidence and independence and ensure a fantastic holiday season.

We Would Love to Hear from You!

If you have comments or questions about our blog, 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 comforts of home. Our 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 Sharon at (484) 380-5400 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.