Holidays and Dementia: How to Celebrate with Your Loved One

The holiday season is a time for joy, togetherness, and cherished traditions. It is a time when families and friends come together to celebrate and create lasting memories. However, when someone you love is living with dementia, the holiday season can bring unique challenges. Dementia can make it difficult for individuals to engage in traditional holiday activities, but with some thoughtful planning and adjustments, you can still celebrate the holidays in a way that is meaningful and enjoyable for both you and your loved one. 

As a life plan community offering Alzheimer’s care in Cumberland County, Tennessee, our team at Uplands Village is experienced in helping those living with dementia lead a fulfilling and meaningful life. We want to help make this holiday season special for your family, so we are sharing ways to celebrate the holidays with someone living with dementia, focusing on creating moments of connection, joy, and comfort.

Plan Simple and Familiar Activities

When planning holiday celebrations for your loved one with dementia, it is essential to keep things simple and familiar. Stick to routines and traditions that they are comfortable with and that align with their abilities. For example:

  • Decorate Together: Involve your loved one in decorating the home. Use familiar decorations that evoke happy memories. Avoid overstimulating or cluttered decorations that may cause confusion.
  • Bake Together: Baking holiday cookies or simple treats can be a wonderful way to bond. Choose easy recipes and involve your loved one in simple tasks, like decorating cookies or stirring batter.
  • Enjoy Familiar Music: Play holiday music that your loved one enjoys and recognizes. Music can be a powerful tool for evoking memories and positive emotions.
  • Watch Old Movies or Slideshows: Gather around to watch old family movies or look through photo albums. These visual reminders can help trigger memories and stories from the past.

Create a Calm and Inclusive Environment

Holidays often bring a flurry of activity and noise, which can be overwhelming for someone with dementia. To create a more comfortable and inclusive environment:

  • Limit Guest Numbers: Consider keeping holiday gatherings small and intimate. Inform guests about your loved one’s condition and ask for their understanding and support.
  • Create a Quiet Space: Designate a quiet area where your loved one can retreat to if they need a break from the festivities. This space should be calming and free from excessive noise or bright lights.
  • Maintain Routine: Stick to your loved one’s daily routine as closely as possible, including meal and sleep times. Familiarity and consistency can help reduce confusion and anxiety.
  • Use Simple Decorations: Opt for decorations that are easy to navigate and not overly stimulating. Soft, warm lighting can create a cozy and inviting atmosphere.

Adapt Gift-Giving

Gift-giving is a cherished holiday tradition, but it can be challenging when your loved one has dementia. Here are some tips for adapting gift-giving:

  • Practical Gifts: Consider giving practical gifts that can enhance your loved one’s daily life, such as cozy blankets, comfortable clothing, or sensory items like scented lotions.
  • Memory Books: Create a memory book or scrapbook that includes photos, mementos, and captions to help your loved one recall important moments from their past.
  • Simplify Wrapping: Use wrapping paper with large, contrasting patterns to make it easier for your loved one to open gifts. Offer assistance if needed.

Focus on Connection, Not Perfection

It is important to remember that the true essence of the holidays lies in the connections and memories shared among family and friends, not in perfection or extravagant celebrations. Here are some ways to emphasize connection:

  • Be Present: Practice being fully present when spending time with your loved one. Put away distractions like smartphones and engage in meaningful conversations.
  • Share Stories: Encourage storytelling and reminiscing. Ask open-ended questions about their favorite holiday memories or traditions.
  • Embrace Changes: Be flexible and adaptable. Your loved one’s needs and abilities may change from year to year, so be prepared to adjust your holiday plans accordingly.

The holidays and dementia are not mutually exclusive. You can have a magical holiday season with your loved one by focusing on the true meaning of the season and remaining flexible to make adjustments when needed.

Our team at Uplands Village is always here to offer support when you need it. To learn more about our Alzheimer’s care in Cumberland County, Tennessee, we invite you to contact us by visiting our website.