Creating a Joyous Holiday in the Midst of Alzheimer’s

Senior couple looking at a photo album during the holidays


The holidays are times when we enjoy traditions and reminisce about our most memorable celebrations. For those who are caring for someone living with Alzheimer’s, the holidays can be challenging, as loved ones may no longer appreciate the season as they once did. Add in the normal hustle and bustle of the holidays and caregiver stress can quickly become unmanageable. Here are some tips to creating a joyous holiday, even while caring for a loved one.

Be flexible

Beloved traditions may need some tweaking to adjust to new circumstances. Know that you can still have a wonderful holiday. Enjoy simply being together. Let friends and other relatives know that you may be cutting back on certain activities and that you’ll be thinking of them even if you can’t get together.

Make a plan

Determine what’s most important to you and how you can make your personal traditions part of your new reality. Identify areas where you may need some help, either from family members or outside help. Call a family meeting if necessary and determine what activities will stay, what will get cut and what new traditions to start.

Don’t be afraid to invite others over

If you used to enjoy entertaining and seeing friends, consider having a few close friends over to celebrate the season. Prepare visitors in advance of your loved one’s condition so they know what to expect. Let your loved one know of who’s coming and provide pictures of them beforehand if possible. Consider having guests wear nametags. Finally, have a quiet space where he or she can go if the party becomes overwhelming.

Involve your loved one in holiday plans

Your loved one may still have memories of past holidays. Ask them to share their memories with you. Bring out photo albums, play holiday music and bake cookies or something else the two of you used to do together. If you’re planning a party, invite them to help with cooking or decorating. Giving them a purpose will make them feel part of what’s going on and more receptive to the event itself.

Give appropriately

Your loved one’s diminishing cognition may make usual gifts unusable or even dangerous. Framed pictures of the two of you can ignite memories and make your loved one feel connected. Special lotions, soaps and shampoos can still be enjoyed and make the recipient feel pampered and cared for. Anything that stimulates the senses is a good gift and can include home-baked cookies and cakes. Soft, comfortable clothing that’s easy to put on and take off is also a good choice.

Create some “me time”

Caregiving doesn’t mean you have to give up your life. Make some time to spend with friends, go shopping and do anything that brings you joy. Continue your healthcare regimen, which may include exercising, going to the doctor, or meditating. If you’re the primary caregiver for your loved one, ask a family member or friend to stay with them while you spend time taking care of your needs. Or hire an in-home caregiver to provide some respite care.