Holidays are a cherished time for most people as they gather with family and friends to celebrate. But celebrations and special events can cause confusion and anxiety for a person with Alzheimer's disease or other dementia. It can also cause stress for family caregivers. By adjusting expectations and altering some traditions, you and your loved ones may find meaningful ways to celebrate together.
Alter holiday traditions
- Involve your loved one by having them help with simple preparations. Mixing batter, decorating cookies or making simple decorations is a great way to prepare together.
- Keep routines simple and as close to normal as possible. Change, even a slight one, may confuse or frustrate your loved one.
- Plan visits when your loved one with Alzheimer’s is usually at their best.
- Limit the number of visitors at one time. Video chats or phone calls are also a great way to connect over the holiday season.
- Find a calm distraction or a quiet space for your loved one with Alzheimer’s if they become upset or overstimulated.
- Plan brief visits or prepare for an early exit when attending holiday gatherings.
Create a safe space
- Avoid blinking lights and decorations that could impact safe mobility or require you to rearrange a familiar room. They can be overstimulating and cause confusion for your loved one with Alzheimer's.
- Keep your loved one with Alzheimer’s away from safety hazards like burning candles and fragile decorations. Secure holiday trees and other large displays to a wall to prevent them from falling.
- Keep music volumes low. It should be relaxing, not distressing.
- Inform guests before they arrive about any behavior or memory changes in your loved one.
- Suggest ways for guests to listen patiently. People with Alzheimer's or other dementia may repeat themselves or have trouble communicating.
- Emphasize that the meaningfulness of sharing a moment together matters more than what the person remembers.
Take care of yourself
- Honor traditions and celebrate holidays that are most important to you.
- Set limits and share them with others. You can't do it all.
- Ask your family and friends for help with cleaning, cooking and shopping.
- Take a break when you need one.