How to Make the Holidays Easier for Those with Dementia

November 30, 2019 | BY PHS Staff

There are many ways in which caregivers and loved ones can make it easier for those with dementia to enjoy the holidays, such as celebrating in a familiar setting, redefining traditions, and toning down the decorations. The holidays can be stressful for those with dementia. For one thing, large crowds and noises can be very scary for elderly people who suffer from Alzheimer’s. For another, they may feel frustrated that they can’t participate in the festivities as they used to.

Family caregivers, too, are stressed out over the holidays as they decide how to celebrate, in which sibling’s home, and how their loved one will be best accommodated.

Luckily, in-home support services by qualified caregivers like those at Preferred HealthStaff can ease the burden on families. In addition to helping your loved one feel as comfortable as possible in the days and weeks leading up to holiday get-togethers, we also offer memory care services.

Create a Safe, Calm Space

It’s important to create an appropriate environment during the holidays for your loved one. Here are some tips:

  • Tone down the decorations. Stay away from blinking lights or large decorative displays that may cause confusion, as well as decorations that can cause clutter or cause you to have to rearrange a familiar room, says the Mayo Clinic.
  • Avoid safety hazards. Use electric candles instead of burning candles. If you do decide to light real candles, never leave them unattended. Don’t put out fragile decorations or those that may be mistaken for food, such as artificial fruits.
  • Play their favorite music. Familiar holiday music can be very enjoyable to the person with dementia. Just make sure you keep the volume down so it’s relaxing rather than distressing.

Adapt Holiday Activities

To help your loved one with Alzheimer’s enjoy the holidays:

  • Prepare food, cards and decorations together. Decorate cookies, open holiday cards and make simple decorations together, focusing on the task and not necessarily the outcome.
  • Host small gatherings. Rather than one big party, try to break them into smaller ones so that celebrations are more quiet and relaxed. Minimize visitor traffic by arranging for a few family members to drop by on different days, as a large group may be overwhelming.
  • Plan accordingly. Plan the gathering for the time of day that is best for your loved one. Having a low-key party midday is best, rather than in the late afternoon or evening when the person with dementia may be sundowning. Keep their daily routines in place as much as you can, and keep outings brief.
  • Provide a quiet space. Make sure there is a quiet place for the person with dementia to retreat to when they just need to spend some time alone. Things can get overwhelming very quickly with dementia sufferers, so having a safe space to go to at a moment’s notice is helpful.
  • Plan meaningful activities. Read a favorite holiday story aloud, peruse through old photo albums, watch a favorite holiday movie together or sing carols, suggests the Alzheimer’s Association.

You will have to adapt and readjust family traditions as your loved one progresses through the disease.

Contact Preferred HealthStaff

For more tips on how to make the holidays easier on those with dementia in Southern PA, please contact us at 866-943-9791.