By Mayo Clinic Staff
Holidays can be challenging for families affected by Alzheimer’s. Try these tips to make the holidays easier and enjoyable for everyone.
The holiday season can cause mixed feelings for a family affected by Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia.
While typically a time for celebration, families may experience a sense of loss for the way things used to be. For caregivers, the holidays may create added work. You’ll also have to consider the needs of the person with dementia during holiday decorating and gatherings.
By adjusting your expectations and modifying some traditions, you may find meaningful ways to celebrate holidays.
Creating a safe and calm space
To create an appropriate environment during the holidays for the person with dementia:
- Tone down decorations. Avoid blinking lights or large decorative displays that can cause confusion. Avoid decorations that cause clutter or require you to rearrange a familiar room.
- Avoid safety hazards. Substitute electric candles for burning candles. If you light candles, don’t leave them unattended. Avoid fragile decorations or decorations that could be mistaken for edible treats, such as artificial fruits. If you have a tree, secure it to a wall.
- Play favorite music. Familiar or favorite holiday music may be enjoyable. Adjust the volume to be relaxing and not distressing.
Adapting holiday activities
To help the person with dementia enjoy the holidays:
- Prepare together. Mix batter, decorate cookies, open holiday cards or make simple decorations. Focus on the task rather than the outcome.
- Host a small gathering. Aim to keep celebrations quiet and relaxed.
- Avoid disruptions. Plan a gathering at the best time of day for the person with dementia. Keep daily routines in place as much as possible.
- Provide a quiet place. If you are having guests over, provide a quiet place for the person with dementia to have time alone or to visit with one person at a time.
- Plan meaningful activities. You might read a favorite holiday story, look at photo albums, watch a favorite holiday movie or sing songs.
- Keep outings brief. If you’ll be attending a holiday gathering, plan to be brief or be prepared to leave early if necessary. Make sure there is a place to rest or take a break.