How to help those with dementia symptoms embrace holiday season


Holiday gatherings bring the entire family together – but it’s not always easy for every member of the family. Loved ones living with dementia or Alzheimer’s commonly encounter hurdles, even in the presence of close family and friends. Their symptoms could express as confusion, lack of enthusiasm and other irregular behaviors that can damper their experience during holiday gatherings and other events. This predicament can be difficult for family members to accept. Yet, they will do what’s needed to accommodate their loved ones’ special needs.

Whether your loved one suffers from memory lapses or sudden spells of confusion and other related symptoms, it’s possible to plan a heart-warming and joyful holiday event that tugs at everyone’s heartstrings.

As you and the family plan out the season’s festivities, use the guidance below to create an inclusive experience that lets every family member bask in the light and warmth of the holiday season.

Consider flexible timing of events

Sticking to a schedule will help move things along, but it won’t be the same if everyone is not in attendance. A little flexibility and unconventional timing can go a long way. The dinner portion of your event, for example, could be particularly problematic for people living with dementia symptoms. Sundowning is a common symptom, which causes irritation, agitation and even confusion during later hours of the day. As a solution, an earlier dinner, or maybe an additional brunch can be organized to accommodate every guest. Seeing everyone together for a meal will be a special moment and well worth the earlier start time.

Loop family in ahead of time

Some forms of dementia-related illness can move quickly. And with so much time in between visits with family members, it’s possible that not everyone is aware of your loved one’s current state of health. Preparing everyone ahead of time about how your loved one is doing and the type of symptoms they are experiencing will be helpful. This way, there will be few surprises, and everyone will be ready to lend a helping hand.

With everyone on the same page about expectations, you can breathe a sigh of relief that a successful event is on the horizon. Plus, telling everyone in advance could lead to opportunities for all family members to do their part in creating an environment that’s safe, warm and joyful.

Incorporate their routines

People living with dementia symptoms can be creatures of habit, and any disruption to their desired ebbs and flows could make them upset. Following a routine is also ameliorating as it can help resolve and manage symptoms of dementia. You can incorporate their routines by asking what they like to eat, scheduling an earlier meal and including other familiar aspects of their daily life. Every effort and attention to detail can make a world of difference this holiday season.

Encourage their participation

Creating a welcoming environment doesn’t mean you have to rewrite the entire script on the family holiday party. For example, stick with your planned activities and do not be afraid to get everyone involved in things like baking cookies, making ornaments or wrapping presents. The key is to focus on coming together and enjoying the time with family, not necessarily producing the perfect batch of gingerbread cookies.

Other activity ideas

  • Bring extra holiday cheer by decorating your loved one’s living space. This can be as simple as working on craft projects together and setting them up around their home.
  • Cook a meal together. There’s no better time to pull out the family’s special recipes and make your loved one’s favorite dish. They’ll be pleased to help whip together a family favorite as you enlist them as your co-chef.
  • Play a card game and help your special senior test their cognitive skills. In addition, playing a familiar card game will produce pleasant memories and let your loved one reminisce about an earlier life phase when card games were common.
  • Talk and reflect. Reflecting on past holidays is cathartic. This activity is a portal for your loved one to explore and relive some special moments in their life. Enhance the experience by sharing old photos and videos of previous holiday events. You could be surprised when their face is overfilled with joy as they unearth a deep-kept memory.

Family dementia care counseling

Like so many other families, you might have concerns about progressing dementia symptoms and questions about long-term care. From onset dementia to more advanced disease, there’s a range of complexities, hurdles and available solutions for every situation. Feeling overwhelmed can be a natural reaction while caring for someone with dementia symptoms. It can be a daily occurrence. By being Dementia Aware, however, family members who are active in the care of their aging loved ones can gain confidence in everyday situations and find peace of mind that compassion is their north star on this journey.

Through my Family Dementia Care Counseling sessions, you’ll learn how to better understand dementia symptoms and behaviors so you and your loved one can navigate toward solutions together.

The consultations include:

  • General education on dementia
  • Coaching to reduce caregiver stress
  • Suggestions to modify your home environment
  • Strategies to manage challenging behaviors
  • Information to keep your loved one active and engaged
  • Ideas to create a more enjoyable dining experience
  • Resources to help with respite care and ongoing care support

Each session is tailored to the specific needs and circumstances of every family. The program puts a focus on compassionate care, reminding you that you can be a game-changing force through your thoughtful care and love.

For more information, click here.

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