For someone with dementia, the holidays can be confusing – or even frightening. When you’re busy decorating, planning for out-of-town guests, or filling your calendar with parties, your loved one may become increasingly confused. Extra phone calls, changes in their surroundings, and unfamiliar faces can cause stress and anxiety.

Dementia is progressive. What worked for your family last year might need tweaking this year. Gifts that were treasured last year might be received with indifference and confusion this year.

Knowing where your loved one is in the disease process can help you prepare for a successful holiday season. Do they have new needs, limitations, or medical problems? Your expectations may have to be modified. Plan ahead, but be flexible. You may need to simplify or adapt your traditions to accommodate your loved one.

Tips for the Holidays when a Loved One has Dementia

  • Balance periods of activity with plenty of quiet time so your loved one isn’t overwhelmed
  • Use a designated “quiet room” if things get too hectic and overstimulating
  • Avoid long days – plan activities around times your loved one is most alert
  • Talk about and show pictures of people who are coming to visit
  • Consider if festive nametags may be helpful for social gatherings
  • Prepare distractions – photo albums and received holiday cards may be a pleasant diversion
  • If your loved one is able to help decorate, prepare food, or set the table, keep them involved
  • Gracefully accept help from other friends and family members
  • Draw on your faith tradition

Holiday Safety Tips for People with Dementia

Safety is also a concern during the holidays. Here are some issues to keep in mind:

  • Create clear pathways for walking
  • Use ribbons or yarn instead of sharp hooks to hang ornaments and decorations
  • Avoid decorating with objects that look edible
  • Avoid blinking lights
  • Avoid lighted candles
  • Carefully anchor and secure your tree or other large décor

Gift Ideas for Loved Ones with Dementia

Gift-giving is a common holiday tradition. Here are some helpful gifts ideas for people with memory loss:

  • Soft pillows or stuffed animals
  • Photo albums, colorful magazines, books with large pictures and few words
  • Music
  • Simple and familiar games
  • A “busy box” filled with fabric and tactile objects
  • Easy-to-remove clothing

If your loved one’s dementia is severe, and they are struggling with daily activities, incontinence, falls, or other problems resulting from serious illness, Hope may be able to provide additional support for your family. Many of our programs and community services help caregivers through this difficult journey. In most cases, our care is available in the comfort of your own home. Please start a referral or contact us to learn more.