Dementia and the Holidays: Managing Celebrations and Expectations

It’s that time of year again. The holiday and the accompanying celebrations are nearly upon us. Christmas is already up in most stores, just after Halloween. Thanksgiving is a little over two weeks away.

What’s the Plan?

After everything that has happened this year, we are in need of security and routine. The holidays are an opportunity to celebrate. It is a time for being with family and friends. Unfortunately, celebrating the holidays will take a little more planning and patience. That is especially true for those who have a family member with dementia.

First Things First

First and foremost, think of your energy level, especially if the holidays happen at your house. Keep celebrations to a minimum if you are feeling exhausted, and who wouldn’t be. Make it easy on yourself. If you are feeling up to more, do what you can.

Also, manage your expectations of others. Your family members may not feel up to having a huge party. They may be depressed, tired, and frustrated for a lot of reasons.

Helping Out

If someone in your family typically hosts the holidays, offer to help where you can. Also, let them know they are doing the best they can. Additionally, encourage them to downsize wherever possible.

Dementia and the Holidays

If your loved one has dementia and is in a long-term care community, visiting outside may be the only option. Find one activity that is meaningful and easy to do. For example, would looking at pictures be helpful? How about listening to holiday music? Reminiscing about previous holidays may be helpful.

For a family member with dementia who lives at home, minimizing visits and activities is beneficial. They may be frustrated with too many people being around. Trying to interact and remember faces can be stressful. Again, keep it simple for your loved one and yourself.

Above All, Enjoy

Most importantly, remember that the holidays may be challenging for your loved one with dementia and you. Do not expect too much. Find support from those who understand.

Take care of your loved one and yourself. Keep breathing and do the best you can. Enjoying the holidays will help your loved one enjoy the holidays, too.

Kathy Dreyer, Ph.D., is an Advisor at AGE-u-cate® Training Institute, which develops and delivers innovative research-based aging and dementia training programs such as Dementia Live® and Compassionate Touch®, for professional and family caregivers;

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