Living with someone with dementia – tips for enjoying the holidays

Living with someone with dementia during the holidays - Elderly woman having breakfast with her family

Living with someone with dementia – tips for enjoying the holidays

The holidays can be a wonderful time to share with families and loved ones. For those living with someone with dementia, holiday gatherings can provide a great opportunity to bring family and friends together they rarely see, but it can also offer some challenges. Here are some helpful tips to keep the holiday events and special gatherings at home running smoothly:

Prepare Ahead of Time: If you’re living with someone with dementia, make sure you talk to them about the holiday plans ahead of time. Let them know who’s coming to visit or to a holiday event at their home, and how they are related to the family and friends attending. Looking through pictures can help to jog past memories and put faces with the names of people they will see. This can trigger recollections of other holidays and help them remember people they haven’t seen in a long time. Encourage them to talk about these experiences and what they remembered best. It will keep them connected and looking forward to the holiday plans.

Prepare Family/ Guests In advance: Tell guests and family members about how memory lapses or behaviour changes may impact on them, ahead of time. Let them know that they may be called the wrong name. This just means they remind them of that person – that a mannerism, or trait, or an age they’ve associated with that person is similar to theirs. Going along with the mistake will help those with dementia avoid feeling confused or upset by a correction or not remembering someone. Let them know it’s OK to answer to the wrong name and to keep communicating. This will help to create new memories associated just with them.

Include Them In Traditions: Keep those who have dementia included in traditional holiday routines like preparing special foods, putting up decorations, singing or listening to carols. Participating in the plans and preparations leading up to an event is as important as participating in the event itself, so keep them engaged and active in each part of the process.

Allow Down-Time and Quiet: Loud and chaotic gatherings can be a challenge for those with dementia. Make sure there is a quiet retreat available where they can take a timeout if they become overwhelmed or irritated by all the noise and excitement. Be sure to re-include them later once they’ve had time to rest their jostle nerves. Opening presents with small children may be too much for them – but calm, one-on-one conversations or quiet storytelling may be just fine and will help grandchildren, nieces and nephews connect and remember these shared experiences fondly.

To talk more about helping someone you love with dementia, please contact us.