Dementia and the Holidays

Whether your loved one has been recently diagnosed with a form of dementia or is in an advanced stage of the disease, the hustle and bustle of the holidays can be extra challenging for them and their family caregivers.

When it comes to enjoying this festive time together, there are tips to follow that will benefit the caregiver and other things to be done for the good of the person living with dementia.

Holiday Times


The holidays must go on! And they still can, with a few specific considerations:

  • Avoid using blinking lights as these can be confusing or scary to a person living with dementia
  • Avoid putting out any decorations that look like food as they could be mistaken for being edible.
  • Say yes to gifts, but do suggest useful items like recordings of favorite music and comfortable clothing.
  • Build in rests and breaks for yourself and the person living with dementia.

Take A Step Back

Between the shopping, the cards, the decorating, the baking, the traveling, and more, the holidays can feel overwhelming for even the healthiest person. Consider:

  • reducing the amount of stimulation in the home of a loved one living with dementia
  • keep your feelings of being overwhelmed to yourself instead of sharing with your care receiver (do consider sharing with your support system)
  • be selective about which parties or visitors are appropriate

When someone living with dementia is over-stimulated, they may exhibit difficult behaviors and increase stress for everyone involved. Instead, adjust your expectations and activity plans:

  • Choose activities your loved one can still participate in rather than trying to get them to do something that is currently beyond their abilities
  • Use an approach of engagement so that you join your loved in an activity rather than just leaving them to figure it out or remember how to do a task, whether it is cooking or putting together a puzzle

The Alzheimer’s Association reminds loved ones to keep in mind that changes in behavior and memory are caused by the disease and not the person.

Take Care of You Too

When you are caring for another person—whether during the holidays or another time of year—it helps if you can be your own caregiver too. The holidays can be an emotionally draining time for some people and the best defense against this is preparation:

  1. Visiting family members may arrive full of opinions on how care should be administered for the person living with dementia. Rather than take offense, one expert with the Alzheimer’s Association suggests that this be accepted as merely a different perspective.
  2. Use the additional help from visitors as a chance to take a break for yourself. You might even ask for respite care—either from another family member or professional in home care agency—as a gift.
  3. Scale back your own task list and delegate holiday chores. Maybe a holiday dinner can be a brunch or a friend can go to the post office for you.

Just because someone in your family is living with dementia does not mean that you—and they—cannot enjoy the spirit of the holiday season this year.

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