Celebrating the Holidays with a Loved One Who Has Dementia

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The holiday season can be difficult for families with a loved one who is affected by Dementia, especially if this is the first holiday since their diagnosis. It’s normal at this time for families to grieve how their loved one used to be when it seems like parts of them are slipping away.

While it may be a difficult time for the families, it is also a very tough and confusing time for the individual living with Dementia. That’s why compassionate Dementia Care is essential for the wellbeing of your loved one. They may struggle to remember everyone at the gathering or become easily overwhelmed by excess stimulation, so make sure you consider their needs when planning a holiday gathering.

Here are some ways to ensure that the holidays can be as safe and enjoyable for you and your whole family this year.

1. Listen to Music

Studies have shown that listening to music can be beneficial for individuals living with Dementia. It is not uncommon for individuals living with Dementia to still be able to sing or hum along to their old favorite songs because the area of the brain that is linked to remembering music is often not heavily damaged by the disease. This is why playing well-known and beloved holiday music at your gathering could be really nice for your loved one with Dementia.

2. Be Mindful of Traditions

People living with Dementia do well with things they know, so if you have a manageable tradition for your loved one, it’s a good idea to keep it. However, if your tradition becomes unsafe or confusing, creating a new tradition may be the best choice. While letting go of longstanding traditions can be really difficult and upsetting, starting new traditions can be a wonderful thing, and your family will be grateful for it.

3. Create a Safe and Calm Environment

Holiday decorations are a fun part of getting into the spirit; however, they can easily create an unsafe environment for someone living with Dementia. Try to refrain from using blinking lights, burning candles, and fragile decorations. If you’re ever in doubt about whether you should put out a specific decoration, air on the side of being overly cautious.

If possible, try to avoid moving around your furniture if your guests are gathering in a familiar room. The rearranging can cause your loved one to become confused and feel unsafe.

4. Be Flexible and Realistic

Being patient and understanding with someone living with Dementia is essential. It’s also important to set realistic expectations of what your loved one can and can’t do. The last thing you want is to overwhelm them, so plan an evening that is flexible and realistic.

Having a quiet space for your loved one to decompress or where they can be with one person at a time is a great idea. It’s normal for symptoms of confusion to increase in people living with Dementia as the day goes on, a term referred to as sundowning. This can lead to heightened anxiety, anger, and confusion. To avoid sundowning, consider hosting your gathering earlier in the day or arranging for your loved one to leave before it gets too late.


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