How to Include a Senior with Dementia in Holiday Celebrations

How to Include a Senior with Dementia in Holiday Celebrations

Dec 16, 2019
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4 min read

Creating a merry and bright holiday season for a loved one who has Alzheimer’s disease or a similar form of dementia can seem daunting. Dementia causes challenges that can make the hustle and bustle of the holidays too much. A change in routine is especially difficult for a person with memory loss.

The key is planning ahead and focusing on the older adult’s remaining abilities. From how you decorate to when and where you celebrate, we have some tips for planning meaningful gatherings that include a senior with dementia.

Decorating for the Holidays When a Family Member Has Dementia

Start by assessing your holiday décor before you put it out. Could any decorations be frightening or dangerous for a senior with impaired judgment or memory loss?

A few issues to be mindful of include:

  • Avoiding decorations that may present a fall risk: It’s common to shuffle furniture around, run extension cords between outlets and holiday décor, and generally change the home environment when decorating. For an adult with dementia, changes can increase the risk of a fall. Minimize changes, especially in the pathways and rooms the older adult uses most often.
  • Skipping twinkle lights and animation: While twinkling lights on the tree and banister are pretty, they can be disorienting for someone with dementia. A better idea is to use lights that remain steadily lit. Animated characters can also frighten someone with dementia. It’s best to keep them packed away.
  • Sticking with artificial candles: Candles are a part of many faith-based holiday traditions from the menorah to an advent wreath. But open flames can be dangerous for someone whose judgment has been impaired by Alzheimer’s. They may be attracted to the flame and try to touch it. Instead, use battery-operated candles. If you have a special celebration planned that requires real candles, keep the senior away from the open flame.

Planning a Dementia-Friendly Holiday Gathering

When it comes to planning a dementia-friendly holiday gathering for your family, keep these two tips in mind:

  • Time of the party: Most adults with Alzheimer’s and dementia have good and bad times of day. Whenever possible, plan your holiday celebrations around those times. For many adults with Alzheimer’s, early evening is especially hard. Seniors who experience “sundowning” often have their most difficult time during the traditional cocktail hour. Instead of planning a cocktail party, it may be better to plan a family brunch or lunch instead.
  • Quiet space: Hectic, noisy family gatherings can trigger anxiety and agitation for an adult with Alzheimer’s disease. Before your holiday gathering, create a quiet space for the senior to retreat to if the festivities seem too overwhelming. Have friends and family spend one-on-one time with them there. They can talk, play soft music, look at family photos, or work on a craft project or puzzle together.

Explore Memory Care Communities

If you are concerned an aging parent who has dementia isn’t living their best quality of life, memory care assisted living might be a solution. These communities are thoughtfully designed to support safety and success. From meaningful life enrichment activities to dedicated dining programs, seniors with dementia have the tools they need to feel successful.

To learn more about memory care assisted living or begin the search for a community near you, call us at 888-514-6461! One of our experienced senior care advisors will be happy to help. Our advice is always free for older adults and their families.

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

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