How to Enjoy the Holidays When Dementia is Part of the Picture

According to the Alzheimer’s Association 2013 Facts and Figures report, there are over 5 million Americans living with dementia today. Most of them are being cared for at home by a family member.  Holidays are all about a change in routine but that is often challenging for the person with dementia.  The holidays can be bittersweet for caregivers. While it is normal to feel overwhelmed or frustrated, making a few modifications to the holiday festivities can make them more pleasant for everyone.

Some Survival Tips for Caregivers

  • Simplify your expectations and your traditions, Share this with other family members
  • Include your loved one in holiday activities that he/she is able to do – simple baking, crafts, gift wrapping, sorting cards etc…
  • Incorporate some art therapy into your routine , This can provide a new way to  connect with your loved one, giving him/her a creative outlet. Art therapy has been found to promote relaxation, improved mood, and decreased disruptive behavior
  • Keep decorations to a minimum – avoid blinking lights, lighted candles, or decorations that could be mistaken for something edible such as decorative fruit or candy
  • Host quiet, small, slow paced gatherings, provide your loved one a private place to rest if needed
  • Honor daily routines as much as possible, avoiding festivities during stressful times of day (late afternoon for example)
  • Celebrate in the most familiar setting to avoid changes in the environment
  • Adapt gift giving taking into account safety of your loved one. Ideas include an ID bracelet, comfortable clothing, a CD of some soothing music, a family photo album, a simple art activity
  • Consider your own needs and give yourself excellent self care – prioritize holiday commitments, simplify baking and gift giving, delegate to other family members, exercise and eat well
  • Arrange for a respite to give yourself a break for a few hours or a few days

Enjoy the Season!

Jennifer Trotter MA, LMFT, LMHC is a Community Liaison for Sutton Homes Memory Care Homes. With 9 homes located throughout Central Florida, Sutton Homes provides care for residents in a secure environment.

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