Tips for Planning the Holidays When a Loved One Has Dementia

November 13, 2015

The holidays are upon us, and that means great food, family and friends. Not to mention some much-needed rest and relaxation from the everyday grind. But for families living with the disease and other dementias, the holidays can be challenging. All it takes is some planning and the proper expectations, and the holidays can still be memorable, even unforgettable occasions. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, there are several ways to make everything flow smoothly.

Familiarize others with the situation

The holidays are full of emotions, so it can help to let guests know what to expect before they arrive. If the person is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, relatives and friends might not notice any changes. But the person with dementia may have trouble following conversation or tend to repeat him, or herself. Family can help with communication by being patient, not interrupting or correcting, and giving the person time to finish his or her thoughts. If the person is in the middle stages of Alzheimer’s, there may be significant changes in cognitive abilities since the last time a relative or out-of-town friend visited. These changes may be hard to accept. Make sure visitors understand that changes in behavior and memory are caused by the disease and not the person.

Adjust expectations

  1. Call a meeting to discuss upcoming plans. The stress of caregiving responsibilities layered with holiday traditions can take a toll. Invite family and friends to a face-to-face meeting, or if geography is an obstacle, set up a telephone conference call. Make sure everyone understands your caregiving situation and has realistic expectations about what you can do. Be honest about needs and limitations.

  2. Be good to yourself. Give yourself permission to do only what you can reasonably manage. If you’ve always invited 15 to 20 people for your gathering, consider scaling down to just a few guests. Let others contribute. Have a potluck dinner, or ask a friend or family member to host.

  3. Do a variation on a theme. If evening confusion and agitation are a problem, consider changing a holiday dinner into a holiday lunch or brunch. If you do keep the celebration at night, keep the room well-lit and try to avoid any known triggers.

Related reading: Adapting Family Traditions for an Aging Loved One

Learn more about the care and support BrightStar Care provides to families and people with Alzheimer’s and dementia in the home. For the holidays and beyond, we can help. Contact your local office today.