Holidays and festivities with people with dementia

Holidays and festive occasions can be stressful at the best of times. For people with dementia, the changes in routine, extra sensory and communicative demands of the season can be overwhelming and result in a distressing and tense time for all. It is not all doom and gloom, however. Finding time before the occasion to think through how to create a dementia-friendly environment and how family traditions can be adjusted to accommodate a person with dementia mean that the entire family can share an enjoyable festive season.

xmasThink about what the person with dementia is capable of: can they fold the napkins for the table, arrange the flowers, or make some festive decorations with the kids? In finding ways for a person with dementia to contribute to the day you not only lighten your own load, you provide them with an important sense of having contributed to the family and the occasion.

This blog is focused on resources that carers can use or provide to others about celebrating with people with dementia. It also includes tips for communicating and successfully interacting with loved ones with dementia.

All resources are freely available online.


Tipsheet: Tips for Holiday Cheer, Alzheimer’s Australia

holiday_cheer_alzaustHoliday celebrations and religious festivities are traditionally a time for family gatherings, the exchange of gifts, sharing food and drink, and general holiday cheer. However, it can also be stressful time, especially for carers, because it represents a break from normal routine. This Sheet gives you some useful tips on how to make life easier at these times.

Website: Supporting a person with dementia during visits, holidays, and celebrations, Alzheimer’s Society UK

alz_uk_holsThis factsheet provides tips for people who are hosting or visiting people with dementia with the intention of ensuring that everyone can have a relaxing and enjoyable time. It is also downloadable, so if you particularly like it you can print it or save for future reference.

Website: Holidays and Alzheimer’s Families, Alzheimer’s Association (United States)

hols_and_alzheimersFor families living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias, the holidays can be a challenging time. However, by planning ahead and adjusting some expectations, your celebrations can still be happy and memorable occasions. This webpage has a number of suggestions for establishing a dementia-friendly environment and (politely) educating family and friends on how to increase the likelihood of having successful interactions with people with dementia.

Newsletter: Caregiving Tips for the Holidays, Alzheimer Society British Columbia (Canada)

holiday_caregivingThe first two pages of this newsletter has some very practical and straight-forward suggestions for including people with dementia in festivities. It is focused on advice for caregivers as to how to coordinate the needs of the person with dementia and the needs of family members. There is emphasis on the need for balance and open-mindedness on the part of family members.

Communicating and interacting

Communicating with a person with dementia can be more challenging, but there are different strategies you can use to increase the likelihood of good communications and interactions. The resources below are all focused on how to communicate with a person with dementia, what to expect and how to make the most of what a person can still do as a basis for sharing activities and pleasant time together.

Helpsheet: Managing changes in communication, Alzheimer’s Australia

comms_changes_alzaustFind out about some of the changes in communication that occur as a result of dementia and how families and carers can manage these changes. Also provided are some personal tips on communication written by a person with dementia.

You can also download, save and/or print this as a tipsheet.

 Tips Sheets: Tips to assist social engagement, Alzheimer’s Australia

comms_changes_alzaustAlzheimer’s Australia has a series of Tips Sheets which offer suggestions for carers, family and friends on social and creative activities for people with dementia. These are all downloadable and may offer some useful additional information that can be used, and perhaps even provide some inspiration for festive activities the entire family can share.

Website: Communicating, Alzheimer’s Society (United Kingdom)

communicating_alzsocI think the introduction best sums up the essence of this article:

“We tend to think of communication as talking, but in fact it consists of much more than that. A large proportion of our communication is non-verbal, which takes place through gestures, facial expressions and touch. Non-verbal communication is particularly important when a person with dementia is losing their language skills. This may also mean that a person with dementia behaves in ways that those caring for them find difficult and this may be because they are trying to communicate something.”

There is also a version of this article available in a downloadable format.

Activity guide: Relate, Motivate, Appreciate: Montessori Resources, Alzheimer’s Australia

RelateMotivateAppreciate-Bklet_blogOne of the very intimidating aspects of dementia both for the person with dementia and family and friends is finding ways to connect with the person they know and remember. These guides provide fantastic advice, suggestions and personal stories of how family members have ‘found’ each other again and established meaningful communications and interactions through shared activities.  These easy-to-read, very informative publications are available in their entirety online for free.  Explore them, for we hope that they provide some inspiration on ways to connect with a person with dementia.

How about you?

What stories can you share on experiences you’ve had over the festive season which have resulted in pleasant and enjoyable family occasions for people with dementia? Add a comment below, we’d love to hear from you!

2 thoughts on “Holidays and festivities with people with dementia

  1. Depression is common among patients with dementia and holidays can increase their feeling of sadness. They may feel a sense of loss during these times. It would be better to consult a doctor before holidays come if your loved ones are going through depression.

  2. For persons with dementia, they may feel a special sense of loss during the holidays. So be prepared for changes in person’s behavior and think about how they might be feeling and spend some time listening and offer reassurance.

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