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Alzheimer's and Dementia

How to Celebrate the Holidays With a Loved One Who Has Dementia

The holidays can be an emotional time for older adults, and this is especially true for a loved one living with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. The thought of planning a holiday celebration while caring for your loved one can feel overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be.  

In this article, we’re going to cover some best practices on how to host a successful holiday gathering with a loved one with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. 

Involve Your Loved One

One of the easiest ways you can bring your loved one joy during the holidays is to include them in your holiday preparations. This can mean allowing them to take a more active role in simple holiday preparations or having them observe your own. Think about what sorts of things your loved one enjoyed most about previous holidays and involve them where appropriate.

Encouraging your loved one to take part in preparations can help get them into the holiday spirit and also make them more comfortable with what is happening on the day of the celebration.

Plan a Smaller Celebration

A loved one who has dementia can quickly become overwhelmed by large groups of people, especially those friends and family members who they may only see a few times a year. Whether you’re planning a holiday celebration at a memory care residence or at home, you’ll want to keep the guest list to a minimum. You’ll also want to keep your holiday celebration quiet and relaxed.

One way to ensure your loved one gets to see everyone who is important to them is to arrange for family members to drop in on different days. Schedule visits at times when you know your loved one is typically in a good mood. Consider virtual visits where appropriate, as well.

Create the Right Atmosphere

Creating the right atmosphere is a large part of any successful holiday party. When you’re celebrating the holidays with a loved one who has dementia the atmosphere can still be festive. You just need to keep your loved one’s comfort in mind while you do your planning.

Here are some tips to help you set the right mood for a loved one with dementia.

  • Celebrate in a familiar setting. A sudden change in environment may cause distress for a loved one who has dementia. Consider bringing the party to them.
  • Prepare quiet distractions to have ready if your loved one becomes overwhelmed. Even something simple, like going for a walk, can help your loved one feel more comfortable.
  • Avoid excessive noise, including loud conversations or loud music. Make sure there is a quiet space where your loved one can rest and recharge as needed.
  • Avoid lighting that is too bright or too dark. Blinking or twinkling lights can also be disorienting for someone who has dementia. Non-blinking lights are best.
  • Instead of elaborate decorations, choose a few meaningful items.

Creating the right atmosphere will vary from person-to-person. Keep in mind what types of things typically cause stress or bring your loved one joy. Know this may change as time goes on.

Adapt Holiday Activities

When planning holiday activities for a loved one with dementia, it’s better to focus on a smaller number of meaningful activities they will enjoy. Someone who loves cooking may find joy in helping prepare the holiday meal. Others may simply appreciate observing activities.

Consider setting an agenda for activities ahead of time and sending it out to your guests. This will help everyone know what to expect and if they need to bring anything with them. Getting your guests all on the same page ensures a better holiday experience for everyone involved.

Take Time to Enjoy the Experience

Holiday celebrations, while fun, can be stressful for the person planning them. But the additional effort you put into accommodating the needs of someone you care about allows you to reflect on what is most important in life and filter out the noise and clutter.

Know that things may not go as planned. Remain positive and stay flexible. When you’re celebrating the holiday with your loved one, give yourself time to enjoy the experience.

Celebrate the Holidays at Friendship Village

At Friendship Village of South Hills, a senior living community in Upper St. Clair, Pennsylvania, we work with our memory care residents and their families to help them celebrate the holidays in a way that is joyful for everyone.

Whether you are looking for a private space to hold a small gathering of family and friends or simply want to have a holiday celebration in your loved one’s suite, our team members will work with you to help identify the right holiday setup and accommodations for your loved one.

Contact us today to learn more about our memory care residences and how we can provide a comfortable and engaging environment to help your loved one celebrate the holidays.

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