21 December, 2021 | 4 min read

Making the Holidays Special for Families Navigating Dementia

The holidays are here, and with it, all the hustle and bustle of the season. Families caring for loved ones living with dementia may discover additional challenges, but it’s important to remember that this time of year can be festive and meaningful, as well.

Celebrations and traditions provide feelings of belonging for all individuals, regardless of age or ability. Your loved one may be reassured by the familiarity. If you’d like to create an experience that is special while decreasing holiday anxiety for your family, there are some steps you can take.

The Challenges of Holidays When Navigating Dementia

Each person experiences dementia differently, and much may depend on the stage of the disease, as well as the situation or even the time of day. Understanding what to expect and being prepared can make a big difference.

  1. The holidays typically bring more stress
    Celebrations can both be wonderful and invite more stress. Most people are already living busy, calendar-filled lives. Adding major holidays and family get-togethers can naturally create more pressure and anxiety as people struggle to get everything done in time.
  2. You may have additional family and friends in the home
    For most people, hosting visiting family members or friends and preparing for guests can cause an increased level of anxiety. For those living with cognitive change, having more people in the home can make them feel unsettled as well.
  3. Getting ready for the holidays requires time
    Holidays can easily disrupt best-laid plans. Your loved one may require more care if he or she feels increased stress due to the change in routine.
  4. It’s impossible to create the perfect holiday
    Trying to recreate a childhood memory or replicate previous family traditions can often be difficult. It is important to limit your expectations and be satisfied if they’re not entirely met.

Tips to Make the Holidays Special While Navigating Dementia

Consider the following suggestions to help smooth the path to a happy holiday season:

  1. Put your loved one first
    Focus on the needs and preferences of your loved one and remember to approach the holidays with a healthy measure of flexibility and understanding.
  2. Reset the expectations of your family and friends
    Inform your family and friends about any changes or new behaviors if they haven’t seen your loved one in a while. Helping them to be comfortable and knowing what to expect will benefit your loved one, too.
  3. Include your loved one in the preparations
    Make sure to invite your loved one to participate in the holiday preparations. Whether it’s helping with baking, decorating or wrapping presents, these small acts encourage feelings of being a part of the celebration. Focus on being together, not the outcome of the task.
  4. Tone down the decorations
    Avoid blinking lights or displays that may be irritating or confusing to your family member. It’s also better not to include decorations that require rearranging a room that is familiar for your loved one.
  5. Avoid safety hazards
    Think safety first. Substitute flameless candles for those that burn. (If you do light candles, don’t leave them unattended.) Avoid decorations that could be mistaken for edible treats.
  6. Play favorite music
    Music can be soothing and may even help your loved one recall a favorite holiday memory. Listen to much-loved holiday music together, or take part in a sing-along around the piano.
  7. Avoid disruptions
    Try to keep daily routines in place. If your plans include hosting others or visiting family and friends in their homes, try to coincide these events with the time of day that is usually the most comfortable for your loved one.  
  8. Plan meaningful activities
    Consider what might make the holidays special for your family member, like reading a favorite holiday story together, looking through old photo albums, singing songs or watching classic holiday movies.
  9. Provide a quiet place
    If you’re having guests over, make sure there is a quiet place where your loved one can go if time alone is needed. It can also provide a space to visit with others, one person at a time.
  10. Share the responsibilities
    Don’t try to take care of everything yourself. If you’re normally the host of a big family gathering, consider switching with someone else or decreasing the number of guests.
  11. Celebrate at their home
    If your loved one lives in an assisted living or memory care community, it might be less stressful if the celebration is in a familiar setting. Bring the festivities there and consider joining your loved one in the holiday activities planned for the residents.

Source: Mayo Clinic

Life at Eskaton Communities

The word Eskaton means “dawn of a new day.” In our communities, we see each day as an opportunity to enhance the lives of our residents. We’ve been serving the Sacramento region and Northern California for over 50 years.

The Eskaton Difference starts with our life-enriching programs and collaborative partnerships. With a national reputation for innovation, we focus on creating communities that provide our residents everything they need for purposeful living. We invite you to visit one of our award-winning communities to discover some of the benefits we offer, such as:

  • Private residences
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  • 24-hour staffing
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  • And much, much more!

Our memory care communities encourage our residents to participate in their care and help them to thrive in an environment designed specifically to support their needs and heighten their quality of life, including:

  • Integrated technology to enhance independence and safety
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  • Specialty programs including music, art and pet therapy

If you’re considering whether senior living could be the best choice for you or a loved one, we’re here to answer any questions that you may have. We also invite you to download our complimentary information, Family Decision Toolkit: How to choose the right senior living community.

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