How to Create a Happy Holiday for People Living with Dementia and Their Caregivers

Group of diverse people are gathering for christmas holiday


For many, the holidays are a joyful time of reconnecting with family and celebrating the many festivities of the season. However, for many family caregivers, the holidays can add stress to an already challenging role. Along with shopping and trying to squeeze in participating in the events that make the season special, caregivers are faced with not only caring for a loved one, but trying to keep the beloved traditions alive for themselves and other family members.

For people living with Alzheimer’s disease and the family members who love them, the holidays can be a time of mixed feelings. Memories of holidays past are a reminder of the losses that come with the progression of the disease. The challenge of providing care for their loved one leaves caregivers little extra time to deal with holiday events and errands.

Be willing to adjust your expectations

People with Alzheimer’s usually do best when a routine is maintained – and the holidays are anything but routine. If you are a family caregiver, you are the best judge of the limits you need to set. The Alzheimer’s Association points out that your situation is different now, and you don’t have to live up to the expectations of others. Accept the fact that many family traditions may need a little tweaking in order to accommodate your current situation.

Keep it simple

Simplify the holidays, and ask for help from friends and other family members. If possible, encourage friends and family to spend time with your loved one, even if it is just for a short visit. Even though your loved one may not remember the visit, the emotional benefits will last.

Take care of yourself

Taking care of someone else requires a great deal of self-care. Allow yourself to enjoy the season and spend time with family and friends. Continue your healthcare regimen, which may include exercising, going to the doctor, or meditating. Being a good caregiver means taking care of yourself – physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. It’s important to continue doing those things that make life worth living.

Tips for friends

If you’re hosting a holiday event, you may not be sure whether or not to include someone living with Alzheimer’s on the guest list. Omitting them completely can make them and their caregivers feel abandoned, so include them and ask their caregiver what activities would work best for their current situation. Make time to visit. Ask for advice on the best time of day – mornings are often best for those with dementia. Plan to spend some quiet time with the person. Offer what might be the best gift of all – spending some time with the person so family caregivers can get out for shopping, personal time and going to holiday celebrations on their own.

The holidays should remain a time of joy and spending time with those you love. With a little planning, caregivers can enjoy the season as much as anyone.