Celebrating the Holidays with Dementia

The holidays are a bright and sometimes noisy time of year. While that festivity may be fun for some, it can be overwhelming for people with memory loss and their caregivers.

Why Holidays Can be Difficult

As you gather with your loved ones, your parent with dementia or Alzheimer’s may feel isolated. That feeling may be compounded if they can’t leave their dementia care community for holiday visits.

But if your mom is in the more advanced stages of memory loss, she might be confused by lots of visitors. She could feel overwhelmed and may not recognize visiting family and friends.

It’s also understandable that you, as a caregiver, might feel a sense of loss during the holidays if your loved one is not included. But preparing for visits and outings will make the experience more enjoyable for both of you.

We’ve come up with a few tips to keep your loved one included and comfortable.

Getting Ready to Travel

Maintaining a routine is an essential part of effective dementia care, but the holidays can throw a wrench in your dad’s schedule. If you plan to take him to a family gathering or party, give yourself plenty of time to prepare for the journey.

Consider what time of day he’s at his best and plan activities around that period. For example, if your dad experiences sundowning, having a holiday brunch or early dinner will be better for him.

Keep these ideas in mind when traveling:

  • Pack all necessary medications and ensure your dad takes them on schedule.
  • Bring an extra set of clothes in case of spills or incontinence.
  • Ask a friend or family member to accompany you to assist with travel.
  • Make several stops so your dad can rest and use the bathroom if the journey is long.
  • Check in with your dad frequently to ensure he’s calm and comfortable.

Talk With Your Family

Just as you need to prepare your parent for holiday events, it’s equally important to discuss your mom’s needs with other family members and friends. Include anyone who will attend the festivities and discuss realistic expectations for your mom’s behavior.

Let your loved ones know that she may not recognize some of them or remember everyone’s name. Inform them of the warning signs of distress and plan to address an outburst.

Emphasize the importance of being patient with your mom during the holidays, especially if her memory loss has progressed. Discuss communication best practices, such as one-on-one conversations and recalling treasured memories.

Dementia-Friendly Holiday Activities

Repetitive, straightforward tasks are best for people with memory loss and dementia. Keep activities simple and give your dad a specific assignment to help him concentrate. You might want to rule out crafts with breakable or flammable objects to avoid injury.

Here are some safe and festive ideas:

  • Wrap presents together.
  • Write and address holiday letters or cards.
  • Bake cookies with children and grandchildren.
  • Decorate wreaths.
  • Watch favorite seasonal movies or listen to beloved Christmas songs.
  • String garlands or make paper chains to decorate a room.
  • Collect family photos and fill a photo album.

It’s not important how well the project or craft turns out. The best part of the activity is spending time with your mom or dad during the holiday season.

Kemper House Worthington is committed to making your loved one feel comforted and loved all year long. Learn about our care services and take a virtual tour of our facility.