As the holiday season approaches, caregivers face more challenges to provide meaningful visits that won’t disorient or overwhelm their loved one with dementia.
Whether you’re caring for your family member in your home or their home, you’ll need to make adjustments to your holiday celebrations to accommodate your loved one’s different needs.
However, even though your loved one may be suffering from memory loss or dementia, they can still have a loving and comforting holiday season with their family.
In this article, we’ll discuss ways you can adapt this year’s holiday celebrations to be more inclusive for relatives with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Visiting someone with dementia during the holiday season—tips and best practices
People living with dementia and Alzheimer’s have special healthcare needs and considerations to be aware of before visiting them.
This holiday season, meet your loved one where they’re at mentally, so they can have a positive and enjoyable visit with you and your family members.
Follow these best tips and practices for creating meaningful visits to meet with your loved one with memory loss.
Prepare the visit ahead of time
Plan your visit around their daily schedule so you’re not disrupting or interfering with their regularly scheduled daily activities.
If your family member gets disoriented or confused during sunset, then you may consider visiting them during the middle of the day.
Also, be sure not to overstay the visit too long, as they may get tired and irritable.
If you plan to bring along several family members, try to keep contact down to a few people at a time. Someone with dementia can be easily overwhelmed in social situations.
Minimize distractions and create a calming environment to visit your loved one
If you’re visiting a loved one with dementia or having them visit your house, try to minimize distracting decorations and keep the environment clutter-free.
Even though we love to decorate the house with string lights and decorations, these things tend to overwhelm people with dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Loud music playing, background noise, people shouting, and children running around can be too distracting and create a chaotic environment for people with dementia.
Instead, plan to visit your loved one in an intimate, and quiet setting so their nervous system isn’t bombarded with too much stimulation.
Adapt holiday activities to be more dementia-friendly
As healthcare needs change, regularly performed activities may need to be adapted to be more dementia-friendly for your loved one.
Instead of traveling to watch a football game, consider watching the game on TV instead.
Or if your loved one frequently made cookies, but is unable to, make the cookies together or just have them frost them.
Find what activities your loved one can still perform, and find ways to incorporate those into family-friendly activities during the holiday season.
Meaningful ways to engage your loved one with dementia this holiday season
Engaging in socialization and playing games can provide relaxation and mental stimulation for your loved one with dementia — which can help improve their stress levels, make them feel loved, and boost their self-esteem.
Here are a few recommendations for shared activities you and your family members can engage in to spend time with relatives with dementia or Alzheimer’s.
Look through old photo albums
Looking through old photo albums can spark and recall memories in your loved one, bringing them back to their youth.
If you’re able to, create photo albums that are already labeled to help your loved one identify family members and friends.
Try to avoid questions such as “who is that in this photo?” as your loved one may not remember, and feel embarrassed. Instead, ask open-ended questions about people you recognize in the photos such as “what was your mother like growing up?”
Sing songs and listen to music together
Old tunes have the power to recall memories from decades ago, just like looking through old photographs or smelling cookies baking.
Create playlists of your loved one’s favorite holiday songs and listen to them together, or sing along to them.
Music therapy is frequently used as a way to calm agitated people with dementia, but also strengthens the bond between people hanging out with each other.
Watch their favorite holiday movie
Watching movies together can be a great shared activity, particularly if your loved one is having difficulty speaking.
Like viewing old photos, watching favorite movies can spark pleasant memories of previous holidays together, and limit challenging conversations if that’s a stressful issue you’re facing as a caregiver.
Bring a pet to visit your loved one
If you’re visiting a relative who lives in memory care or assisted living, ask their senior living community if you can bring a pet to visit them.
At The Kensington Sierra Madre, we have a pet-friendly community and encourage our residents to bring their small pets with them.
Bring them a gift
Who doesn’t enjoy receiving gifts around the holidays? Consider buying your loved one a stuffed animal that can provide them with companionship.
Recently, there’s been a trend in using realistic stuffed animals, or robotic stuffed animals, to provide memory care support for people with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Give them a job or task to complete
Many people with dementia simply don’t have enough activities to keep their body and mind occupied. This is a common complaint with people with Alzheimer’s — they want to feel useful and helpful.
To give your loved one a meaningful task, have them assist you with baking cookies, setting the table, or other small tasks that they can get excited to complete.
Things to avoid during the holidays with someone with dementia
We don’t recommend traveling far distances with relatives who have dementia. Traveling by airplane is almost always discouraged, as airports are too disorienting for people with memory loss.
Additionally, make sure to remove any fake fruits or other decorations that look like food, as people with dementia may be confused.
Also, try to minimize or remove any traces of alcohol from your celebrations, especially if your loved one enjoys drinking, as alcohol can only worsen the effects of dementia and create conflict during the holidays.
Contact The Kensington Sierra Madre for more information on our memory care neighborhoods
Our loving community features amenities on-site that will help your loved one with memory loss live a happier and more enjoyable life such as:
We provide a greater continuum of care than you’ll find at most traditional assisted living and memory care communities.
At The Kensington Sierra Madre, your loved one can truly “age in place.” This means even if your loved one’s healthcare needs change, we’ll still be able to provide them with the care they require.
Are you the caregiver or a person living with dementia or Alzheimer’s?
Please contact us today to learn how our memory care community can help.