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Dementia And The Holidays

December 26, 2013

By Editor
 While the holidays can be a time of celebration, the holiday season can also be overwhelmingly stressful if you are a person with dementia or a caregiver. The festivities of the season many times involve visiting unfamiliar places,  large groups of people, noise and a hectic pace all of which can increase anxiety for those with the disease. Whether the person you’re caring for lives at home or in long-term care, sticking to a regular routine will minimize stress. Keeping things simple and cherishing the time with family will make the holiday period enjoyable and meaningful for everyone involved.

For example, simplifying holiday events by limiting the number of guests and by celebrating meaningful family traditions can help make family gatherings more enjoyable. Additionally, you can find ways to help the person with dementia contribute to the festivities in ways that they are capable. This can be as simple as helping to set the dining table, stirring ingredients while holiday baking or wrapping gifts. It is also important to consider where these holiday events take place. Even if someone with dementia is independent in familiar surroundings, they may need extra support when celebrating elsewhere. They might find a new environment confusing or may have difficulties readjusting once they return home so it is important to plan ahead. Consider bringing labels for bathroom doors and briefing hosts and guests about safety concerns such as ensuring that home doors are always locked. Explaining potential hazards can help avoid them from occurring.

With some adjustments and helpful tips, people with dementia and their families can still enjoy all the holidays have to offer. To learn more about the holidays and dementia go to our website; or the national site,
10 Helpful Hints for the Holidays
1.    Plan ahead; have a family discussion and set realistic expectations.
2.    Organize a series of small events instead of a day-long celebration.
3.    Plan festivities around a time and day that is best for the person with dementia.
4.    Limit family gatherings to small groups.
5.    Involve the person with dementia with appropriate holiday preparation tasks. Tell them their help is valuable.
6.    Host family gatherings in a familiar place to avoid confusion.
7.    Have a quiet area where the person can retreat (along with a family member or friend so they don’t feel isolated) if gatherings become too hectic.
8.    Organize meaningful activities - looking at old family photographs or singing favourite songs.
9.    Make a list of doctors and pharmacies that are open during the holidays in case of emergencies; know the location of the nearest emergency department.
10. If the person is taking medication, make sure they have enough to get through the holidays.

Compiled from the Alzheimer Society of Canada website