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Enjoying the Holidays When a Loved One Has Dementia

Enjoying the Holidays When a Loved One Has Dementia

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The holidays are upon us. This is the time of year that can bring opportunities for togetherness, sharing, laughter, and making memories.

The holidays are upon us. This is the time of year that can bring opportunities for togetherness, sharing, laughter, and making memories. But when a loved one has dementia, there can also be stress, disappointment, and sadness. 

While a person living with dementia, their family, and caregivers may find the holidays challenging, even overwhelming, at times, it is still possible to continue some traditions and even start new ones to have an enjoyable time.

We’ve culled a variety of tips from several sources that we hope can help make your together time special.

  • Keep your loved one involved in the celebration
  • Consider what they would enjoy
  • Build on past traditions and find new ways to connect
  • Be sensitive to the person’s needs
  • Maintain the person’s normal routine
  • Consider holding the gathering at brunch or lunch, because some people with dementia experience fatigue or confusion later in the day
  • Interact directly with the person, rather than his or her caretaker
  • Be a good and patient listener, because some people may need longer to formulate their responses to questions
  • Invite the person to participate in a non-stressful way, perhaps by helping set the table or fold napkins, depending on his or her level of function
  • Try to interpret unexpected behaviors
  • Have realistic expectations as circumstances change
  • Provide a quiet place where the person can spend some down time, if needed
  • Be open with family and friends about the person’s abilities
  • Plan to travel appropriately
  • When traveling, allow extra time, slow down and plan for breaks, and take advantage of the times of day when the person is most attentive

The Alzheimer’s Association also offers some suggestions and resources on its website that families navigating this time of year with a loved one with dementia might find beneficial.

  • Check in with the person living with dementia
  • Involve the person with dementia
  • Familiarize others with the situation
  • Adapt gift giving
  • Adjust expectations
  • When the person lives in a care facility

By making a few adaptations and preparations, family members and caregivers can help their loved ones living with dementia have a happy holiday celebration.

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