Managing holidays with a loved one with dementia

Holidays bring families and friends together to experience the joys of the season. But when a loved one has dementia, there are additional things to consider:

  • Remember the most important aspect of the holidays – people!
    Don’t get so caught up in maintaining traditions that those important relationships get lost. Keep the traditions your loved one has enjoyed in the past and would enjoy now. Plan activities focused on spending time with your loved one, not on getting a lot done.
  • Plan activities, adapting the scale if needed
    Plan an hour or two to spend with your loved one doing activities you both enjoy but are not overwhelming. If your loved one enjoyed shopping, try going to a specialty store instead of a busy mall, and avoid the stores’ peak times. If your loved one enjoys crowds and activity, go to the mall for a cup of coffee to look at the decorations and people, not for a major shopping trip. Again, try to avoid busy shopping times.
  • Tailor traditions to your loved ones’ abilities
    If baking is a favorite activity, let them help with tasks they can handle. If they can still chop, measure and mix, encourage them to do so. If not, perhaps ask them to decorate the baked goods.

If your loved ones enjoy sending holiday cards, ask them to help pick out the cards and address the envelopes if they are able.  Or simply share cards that have been received and reminisce about the sender.

  • Create a comfortable environment
    If your loved ones are visiting you, designate a “quiet room” where they can get a break from the “busy-ness” and overstimulation the holidays can deliver. Try to keep to the schedule your loved one maintains at home. Eating and sleeping at about the same times each day helps them avoid the holiday “crash.”
  • Give yourself permission not to include your loved one in all activities
    Many events are too over-stimulating to be fully enjoyed by someone who is suffering from dementia.
  • Be ready to adapt
    Keep the activity light and positive. If you notice your loved ones are showing signs of stress, redirect them, take a break or move to a new activity. Your loved one will relate to feelings of joy and companionship in a friendly, supportive atmosphere more than to any specific activity.
  • Allow time for yourself
    You and your loved one both will be more relaxed if you allow time for yourself as well. You will better enjoy the thoughtful and carefully planned time you spend together.

To make an appointment for those with dementia, Alzheimer’s disease or age-related issues, contact UNT Health at 817-735-DOCS (3637).


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