The holidays can often be a stressful time of year, but if you’re caring for a relative with Alzheimer’s or other dementia, it can be even more challenging. Dementia brings with it personal limitations that can make it difficult to plan family gatherings. While your relative will not be able to enjoy the same holiday activities as they did in the past, you can still take a number of steps to make sure they have a good time.

Make sure the holiday gathering is small.

People living with dementia can easily get confused and overwhelmed in large groups of people. Keeping both the guest list and time short can enable them to get the most out of holiday gatherings. Make sure to also have snacks on hand that are easy for them to handle, such as finger food and cookies.

Create easy projects that they can participate in.

Decorating cookies or small tabletop decorations are simple activities that can help them feel included. Ask them about past holiday gatherings and encourage them to reminisce by bringing out old family albums. They may not willingly jump into conversations, so encourage them to participate.

Play traditional music.

Studies have shown that music has a positive effect on those who live with dementia. By playing holiday tunes that they are familiar with, you can help bring them out of their shell and encourage more interaction. Dementia can diminish a person’s ability to express emotion, and music can combat that, creating more bonding moments between you and your relative.

Let some things slide.

Family relationships can be sometimes become strained when one member has dementia. Maybe you’re the primary caretaker, and you feel like your siblings aren’t helping out as much as they could. For this time of year, let that slide. Focus on making your relative have a happy holiday, and forgo any lingering strife. Sometimes, those with dementia can say rude or mean things. If they make unkind remarks, just remind yourself that it’s the disease speaking, and not them.

Don’t try to do everything.

It’s okay if you don’t get the cards out this year. It’s okay to say “no” to some party invitations. Instead, focus on what matters. “It’s easy to get caught up in a busy holiday schedule— try to focus on quality not quantity—and plan your holiday schedule to be as low stress as possible.  Try to “be present” and cherish the time with your loved one, “says Dr. Quincy Samus, of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holidays and forget what really matters. Johns Hopkins Home Care Group wants to ensure that both you and your loved one are able to enjoy this time of the year. If you’re starting your journey as a caregiver to a relative with Alzheimer’s or other dementia, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at 410-288-8100.

If you interested in research, you can reach out to our partners at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine at 410-550-6744 to learn more about the MIND at Home study. MIND at home is testing a care coordination program to support patients and families living with Alzheimer’s or other dementias.


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