7 Tips for Celebrating Holidays During the Alzheimer’s Journey

by | November 23, 2021 | Care Tips, Celebrating, Featured Article, Involving Others

Holiday celebrations help keep your family connected. Treasure new memories. Feel the love. Cherish each moment of joy.

When you love someone who is living with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, holidays require a different kind of planning. Here are a few ideas to help you and your family plan your next holiday celebration:

#1 – Think About What’s Best for Your Loved One.

Start by acknowledging that you all want to include your loved one. Then, think about whether it would be best for your loved one to be included in all or part of your holiday activities. If your loved one won’t be with you, it’s okay to grieve. The pain and loss are real.
If your loved one is unable to be with your family for the holiday, find other ways to include them.
For example:
  • Share pictures and memories of your loved one.
  • Take new pictures to share with your loved one.
  • Ask children to make cards or draw pictures for your loved one.
If your loved one can be with you for the holiday, think about how things might need to change to keep them feeling safe, secure, and loved. Take some time to talk about what your celebration should look like this year.
If it’s time for your loved one to stop driving, don’t encourage them to drive across the country (or even across town) for a family gathering. If your loved one is having trouble in the kitchen, don’t ask them to cook.
Some family members may argue for “doing things the way we always have.” This is understandable, but it simply doesn’t work when you have a loved one who has Alzheimer’s. Acknowledge how others feel, but make sure everyone in the family knows you need to prioritize your loved one and explain that your loved one is not able to adjust. It’s up to the rest of the family to make adjustments.

#2 — Spread Out Activities.

Don’t try to cram all of your family traditions into a few hours, and do your best to allow time for rest between activities. Instead of overwhelming your loved one, take time to cherish moments. Consider spreading out your holiday celebration over several days or even weeks.

#3 – Create Small Gatherings.

Look for ways to create small gatherings inside your large gatherings. While your loved one may enjoy being with the entire family, you may find more meaningful connections in smaller groups. For dinners or board games, set up multiple tables in separate rooms. If your whole family is together, designate a quiet space where one or two people can visit with your loved one.

#4 – Take Turns.

Take turns visiting with and keeping an eye on your loved one. Pay attention to signs of stress or fatigue. Note when it’s time for a nap or a short walk.
If you are the primary caregiver, ask others in your family to share the responsibility during the holidays. If you are a family member visiting from out of town, ask the primary caregiver how you can help give them a break.

#5 – Sing Together.

Singing with your loved one is a wonderful way to create new moments of joy and connection. Check out our Christmas singalongs to get started.

#6 – Take Pictures.

Remember to take lots of pictures as you and your family create new memories. And spend some time looking at pictures from previous celebrations.

#7 – Remember to Celebrate.

Remind yourself often of all the reasons you are celebrating. Treasure new memories. Feel the love of family and friends. Cherish each moment of joy.

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Author Bio: Eric and his wife, Sheryl, founded Songs & Smiles to support families during the Alzheimer's journey. He loves singing and smiling and helping people living with dementia connect with beautiful memories.

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