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Tips to Help Your Parent with Dementia Enjoy the Holidays

Photo of full family reunion gathering sit feast dishes chicken table communicating fall november autumn holiday multi-generation in evening living room indoors

The holidays are a great time to gather family and spend some quality time together. Of course, preparing for these gatherings can also be stressful, and for those with a loved one with dementia, there are some unique considerations. Here are some tips on designing your holidays so your parent or loved one with dementia can have the best time possible.

1. Simplify to reduce stress

If you have a parent or loved one with dementia, first assess their capabilities and the implications of that for your holiday gatherings. For instance, if your family always travels for the holidays, it might now be time to have everyone travel to the parent’s or loved one’s area, so he or she does not have to do any travel.

In addition, if your family’s holiday traditions involve activities for which your parent or loved one can no longer partake, consider changing the activity, or at least modifying the activity to keep your parent engaged while the rest of the family is participating in a more traditional way.

2. Avoid excessive decorations

Surroundings can often be confusing for those with dementia, and as festive as holiday decorations can be, waking up in a house that looks markedly different can cause unnecessary anxiety for your parent or loved one. The same goes for too many shiny decorations or too many lights — they can be distracting and your parent may not enjoy them. (Conversely, if you have received positive feedback that your loved one likes extra decorations, go all out!)

3. Let your parent or loved one participate in the preparations

Chances are, your parent had an active role in preparing for holiday gatherings when you were young . These same rituals can be very comforting to your parent now, so find ways to get them to help with things like getting the house ready, preparing food, or other holiday-oriented tasks. Choose tasks that are easy enough that your parent can feel successful doing them and that won’t cause additional stress.

4. Have a designated person keep an eye on your parent or loved one

It might be too much for one person, so it’s ok to do this in shifts. But the point is, during holiday gatherings, there’s too much going on both for your parent or loved one and for others — it can be easy to lose track of them and have them become overwhelmed. If you have a designated person, that person will know that no matter what else is going on, they should stay close to your parent or loved one and check in with them often, as others are proceeding with the festivities.

5. Stick to your parent’s or loved one’s schedule as much as possible

Things like mealtimes and bedtimes can easily be thrown off during the holidays, but for your parent or loved one, these predictable times of the day can offer comfort in an atmosphere that can otherwise be chaotic. This can result in anxiety, confusion, over-tiredness, and other negative emotions. So, for your parent or loved one, try to keep the schedule consistent as much as possible.

If taking care of your parent or loved one is becoming more challenging, take 5 Minute In-Home Care Quiz to assess 6 key components of your parent’s health, and whether you may benefit from more help with his or her care.

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