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Holidays and Dementia: How to Celebrate the Season with a Loved One

holidays and dementia

There is truly nothing more special than coming together with family and friends during the holiday season. Whether you live far from loved ones or you’re just excited to ring in the festivities with the people you care about most, the holidays are the perfect time to reconnect and enjoy time together.

For those living with dementia, the holidays can be even more meaningful, bringing back special memories. However, this time of year can also be overwhelming and confusing. As a result, it can be hard to know where to begin when planning your family’s special gatherings in a way that makes your loved one living with dementia feel supported and safe.

Offering memory care in San Antonio, our Franklin Park® Senior Living team is sharing some important tips to keep in mind when preparing for the holidays when someone you love is living with dementia.

Create a Plan

Before planning any form of gathering or celebration, arrange a group discussion between you and the rest of your family to discuss and plan in advance. Be sure to include your loved one living with dementia if they’re up for it so they feel supported rather than excluded. 

During this discussion, communicate realistic expectations about what you can and cannot do as a caregiver, and ensure that everyone understands your caregiving role and the precautions that you all must take to keep your loved one safe and supported. 

Warn Guests and Family Ahead of Time

Whether you’re hosting relatives or friends for one single gathering or you have people staying in your home for the days leading up to a holiday event, everyone in the household needs to be prepared beforehand. Dementia affects everyone, not just the person who has been diagnosed.

Remind everyone that your loved one might not exhibit the most socially appropriate behavior or understand what is acceptable. Warn the other members of your family that they may get easily agitated or confused, exhibit signs of wandering, sundowning, or have an unusual appetite during meals.

Depending on your loved one’s stage of dementia, you might have to remind guests to introduce themselves, especially if it’s been a while since their last visit and your loved one’s condition has progressed.

Prepare Your Loved One

To help your loved one avoid becoming overwhelmed during the holidays, it’s a good idea to start preparing them as early as possible for the festivities. Try showing your loved one photos of family members and friends who will be joining the celebrations or arranging phone calls to help reintroduce them or give your loved one an opportunity to find familiarity and comfort with these people.

For a person living with dementia, routine is important. When this everyday routine is disrupted, it can be a very scary situation. Your loved one might feel disoriented and confused as they become unaware of what’s happening in their surroundings. If you have relatives staying at your home or other significant changes in the environment, watch for signs of anxiety, frustration, or agitation in your loved one.

Keeping your loved one’s routines as close to normal as possible can help reduce these feelings of anxiety and confusion. Even though the holiday season can be hectic, staying consistent with mealtimes, sleeping and waking times, and any other care routines that are set in place can make a significant difference.

Set Realistic Expectations

When it comes to the holidays and dementia, understand that you might not be able to participate in some family traditions. For example, avoid decorating with any flashing or twinkling lights, as they can cause overstimulation. Also, be sure to clean up any sort of clutter (whether from gifts, decorations, or other situations) to avoid confusion and reduce the risk of falling.

Remember that just because a person is living with dementia, it doesn’t mean that they can’t enjoy celebrating the holidays with the people that they love. By incorporating ways to make your loved one feel safe, they’ll be able to have a wonderful holiday season!

Learn more about Franklin Park® Senior Living and our memory care options in San Antonio, Texas, by visiting our website or contacting a member of our team.