Enjoying the Holidays While Caring for a loved one with Dementia

Caring Places Management recommends and requests to please adhere to local and state requirements relative to Covid-19 during the 2020 holiday season.

While the holiday season is supposed to be one of joy and happiness, it can be stressful to manage the different elements of presents, meals, traveling, and parties. The holidays can become infinitely more complicated, especially in families where a loved one or an elderly parent has dementia. This degenerative condition can lead to agitation and outbursts, not to mention confusion and wandering. These situations require special attention, and here is a guide on how to handle the holidays when providing dementia caregiving.

Opt for Inclusion and Not Exclusion

Take extra time educating family members and friends about the disease and how the holidays can be triggers or cause stress and anxiety. It can be scary, sad, or frustrating. Speaking to family and friends can help calm fears, give them warning about what to expect, and teach them how to respond to de-escalate situations if any occur.

As you talk with those who will be home for the holidays, get everyone involved with planning strategies for addressing wandering or coming up with activities that your loved one can still enjoy. Have a special seat or area designated for your loved one, and create a schedule of family members assigned to stay in the area to be a companion and subtly keep watch. Dementia caregiving during the holidays is less stressful if you plan ahead.

Focus on Dementia-friendly Activities

While your loved one may not remember specific names or events, it doesn’t mean they cannot enjoy the festivities. Plan to incorporate activities that bring familiar memories, such as a playlist with their favorite songs or bring out family photos. It’s okay to talk about memories and draw them into the conversation, though you must not push them too hard to remember a particular event or person. If their memory is fuzzy or inaccurate, don’t correct them. Be excited and encouraged that they chose to engage with the conversation.

In addition to creating opportunities to engage their mind in the celebration, find ways to let your loved one physically take part in the party. People with dementia still want to be a valued part of the family, and there are plenty of ways to support them in this. You can ask them to help set up the table or help sort through the gifts or holiday cards. You don’t want to focus on the task itself, but the chance to spend time with them. Include them in decorating the tree or making cookies. Find something they are comfortable doing and spend the time alongside them.

Prioritize Safety

At times, your loved one may become overwhelmed with the number of people in the room that they can’t remember. Agitation can lead to wandering, whether to a bedroom or the front door. By assigning family members to take shifts in keeping an eye on your loved one, it can take the pressure off of you as the primary caregiver. It is best to recognize the signs of potential wandering and proactively address them. Here are some situations or expressions to notice:

  • The sudden need to pick up something from the store
  • Sitting in one location for too long without stimulation
  • Claiming they need to find someone or something
  • Not having eaten or drank anything in a while

Have family members use photo albums, conversations, a drive to look at holiday lights, or other activities to keep your loved one engaged.

Prepare for the New Normal

As you make preparations for the holiday season, prepare to let go of the guilt or sadness you may feel over what you are all facing. Not to say that these emotions aren’t valid, but you want to present your best self to your family and friends during the holidays, but especially to the one struggling with dementia. You may have to limit the parties or the guest list, but it is worth it as you give your loved one a season to celebrate and enjoy. Give your loved ones the attention they need, understanding that this disease is a tough condition that is incurable.

When the condition progresses to beyond your ability to provide the level of care you desire for your loved one and the quality of life you wish to see for you both, Caring Places Management offers a supportive and safe environment that provides personalized, high-quality care for residents with dementia. It is an excellent resource and solution for those needing to transition their loved ones into a more accommodating environment.

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