7 Ways to Make the Holidays Easier for Someone With Alzheimer’s or Dementia

It’s no secret that living with Alzheimer’s disease and caring for someone who has Alzheimer’s disease or dementia is challenging. This also means that late November and December—a time when the holidays are upon us—also brings unique challenges as we celebrate and see more family and friends. However, there are some ways to make life a little easier during this busy time. Here are a few suggestions.

1. Think safety. It’s fun to decorate for the holidays, but think safety first. Don’t place items that will cause a fall hazard, and avoid the use of real candles (there are lots of great LED candle options nowadays). Consider also any items that may fall easily and inadvertently hurt your loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia, such as a tree. Secure these types of items.

2. Play music and lead them in easy activities. Music can bring back pleasant memories if you’re selecting it correctly. Play some holiday tunes that your loved one finds soothing, and ask questions about the memories that those tunes invoke. You can also plan some easy activities together, such as baking cookies or doing Christmas crafts. Keep your expectations low. Focus more on enjoying the experience rather than the finished product.

3. Prep both guests and your loved one in advance. Before family or friends come by to spread holiday cheer, share pictures and remind your loved one with dementia of who everyone is. At the same time, give visitors a health update, sharing anything that you think would be helpful for their visit.

4. Don’t overwhelm. Although it can be fun to think about friends and family coming by, too many visitors can be especially overwhelming to someone with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Space out visits, and do your best to keep a smaller number of visitors arriving at one time.

5. Keep a routine. Think for a minute about your typical day. How do you feel when you have a day or two or three where you’re not following your usual schedule? It can be jarring or confusing, right? That’s the same for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia, but it’s magnified. As much as possible during the holidays, stick to their regular schedule.

6. Share communication tips. Share some pointers with guests about how to best communicate with someone who has Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. For example, they can do the following, according to the Alzheimer’s Association:
Use the person’s name frequently.
Speak slowly but in a relaxed manner.
Be patient.
Don’t ask, “Don’t you remember?!”

7. Take care of yourself. Caregiving is never easy, and the holidays add a new layer of responsibility. Make sure to take a breather and do something you enjoy, so you don’t get too stressed.

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