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A Guide To A Memorable Holiday Season For Dementia Patients, Caregivers

November 03, 2017

Those who take care of loved ones with dementia can have mixed feelings about the holidays – caregivers may have happy memories of the past, but they also may worry about the extra demands that the holidays can bring.

To make the season more enjoyable, a balance between holiday-related activities and the needs of the caregiver and person with memory loss is what I recommend. Here are some practical suggestions that could help this holiday season:

  • Only celebrate holidays that are most important to you and the person with dementia.
  • Set your limits and be clear about them with others. Learn to say “no.”
  • Involve the person with dementia in simple holiday preparations, or have them observe your preparations.
  • Consider simplifying your holidays around the home. Rather than cooking a large holiday dinner, invite family and friends for a potluck. Instead of elaborate decorations, consider choosing a few select items. Having a holiday lunch or brunch can avoid evening confusion.
  • Limit the number of visitors at any one time.
  • Prepare a quiet room or activity to distract the person with dementia if they become upset or overstimulated.
  • Talk about and show pictures of people who are coming to visit.
  • Name tags for visitors can be helpful.
  • Avoid unfamiliar surroundings and changes in light intensity. Blinking lights may confuse the person with memory loss.
  • Caregivers should maintain a regular routine, as much as possible, especially when it comes to keeping a consistent sleep schedule.
  • Find time for holiday activities you like to do. If you receive invitations to celebrations that the person with Alzheimer’s or another dementia cannot attend, go yourself. Ask a friend or family member to spend time with the person while you’re out.

The holidays are a time when family and friends often come together. But for families living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias, the holidays can be challenging.

Take a deep breath. With some planning and adjusted expectations, your celebrations can still be happy, memorable occasions.

The Hartford HealthCare Center for Healthy Aging, a not-for-profit member of Hartford HealthCare Senior Services, is a resource and assessment center designed to enhance access to services and information related to attaining optimal quality of life for seniors and their caregivers. For more information about Hartford HealthCare Center for Healthy Aging, which includes locations at MidState Medical Center and the Hospital of Central Connecticut, click here