Creating Warm Memories: Tips for a Dementia-Friendly Holiday Celebration

October 4, 2023
Lori Horstman
  1. Keep it Simple: Streamline holiday plans and decorations to minimize confusion and sensory overload. Opt for simple and familiar decorations, avoiding excessive lights or loud music that might be overwhelming for individuals with dementia.
  2. Maintain Routine and Familiarity: Stick to established routines as much as possible. Familiar surroundings and routines provide comfort and reduce anxiety for individuals with dementia. If changes are necessary, introduce them gradually to allow for adjustment.
  3. Involve Them in Preparations: Engaging individuals with dementia in holiday preparations can be a fulfilling and inclusive activity. Simple tasks like wrapping presents, decorating, or preparing a dish can provide a sense of purpose and connection to the festivities.
  4. Create a Quiet Space: Designate a quiet and calm space where individuals can retreat if the holiday activities become overwhelming. This provides a retreat for relaxation and helps prevent sensory overload.
  5. Encourage Familiar Faces: If possible, keep holiday gatherings intimate and include familiar faces. Smaller groups foster a more relaxed atmosphere, making it easier for individuals with dementia to engage in meaningful conversations and enjoy the company of loved ones.
  6. Adapt Gift-Giving Traditions: Simplify gift-giving by focusing on meaningful and practical items. Consider gifts that stimulate the senses, such as soft blankets, scented lotions, or photo albums with cherished memories.
  7. Incorporate Sensory-Friendly Activities: Include activities that engage the senses without overwhelming. Music, gentle holiday scents, or tactile experiences like handling ornaments can evoke positive memories and create a festive atmosphere.
  8. Offer Clear Communication: Communicate plans and changes clearly and concisely. Use simple language, and be patient and attentive when listening. Offering reassurance and answering questions can help reduce anxiety associated with uncertainty.
  9. Celebrate Earlier in the Day: Plan holiday celebrations earlier in the day when individuals with dementia are likely to be more alert and energized. This can help prevent fatigue and ensure a more enjoyable experience for everyone involved.
  10. Be Flexible and Attuned: Flexibility is key when celebrating with someone with dementia. Be attuned to their needs and emotions, adjusting plans as necessary. The focus should be on creating a positive and comfortable experience rather than adhering strictly to traditional expectations.
By incorporating these dementia-friendly holiday tips, we can create an inclusive and joyous atmosphere that allows everyone, including those living with dementia, to partake in the warmth and connection that the holiday season brings. Ultimately, it's the thoughtful consideration and adaptation of traditions that make the holidays memorable and meaningful for everyone involved.