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How to Approach the Holiday Season while Caring for Someone with Dementia – Part One

The “most wonderful time of the year” is right around the corner, and while it is a grand time with lots of family moments and wonderful memories, it also can be a time of great stress and worry. This stress can especially be present if you are going into the holiday season while caring for a loved one who has Alzheimer's disease or other form of dementia. There can be so many questions surrounding how to best approach the holidays with dementia affecting your family, so here are a few tips to make family gatherings not just doable, but hopefully a little less stressful as well.


  1. Prep your Extended Family

Be incredibly honest, not just with yourself, but your whole family. Being open and realistic with family will help them know what they should expect. Try to schedule a family conversation or group phone call so everyone can be included. Make sure everyone understands the caregiving situation and any precautions or changes that need to be made to make sure the holidays go smoothly.


  1. Ask for Help

Caregiving can be one of the hardest things, emotionally and physically, not to mention adding that on top of the natural stress the holiday brings. A conversation with family can be a great time to talk about any help that may be needed during the holiday to make sure the loved one is taken care of. This doesn’t necessarily mean the physical part of memory care, but perhaps it means someone will need to help more with wrapping gifts or doing a bit more cooking, so you have more time to relax. Asking for help and setting clear expectations can be a great way to keep yourself from experiencing burn out or extreme stress down the road!


  1. Change Old Traditions to meet New Realistic Expectations

It is no secret that all families have certain holiday traditions. Maybe you all watch football together on Thanksgiving and cheer for your team or perhaps you all have a Christmas dinner and open gifts afterwards? While these traditions are what make everyone’s holidays special, it also could be the thing that upsets your loved one with Dementia. Consider your loved one’s progression and be realistic in your expectations of their realistic behavior. Do they do well with loud noises or big groups? If not, perhaps you can set them up in a separate room doing arts and crafts with the grandkids! If you know they have behaviors due to sundowning and really have a hard time during the evening, perhaps move the meal to lunchtime instead and open gifts before dinner! Just slightly changing the traditions, not completely stopping them, is a great way to keep your loved one feeling involved while also making sure your family gets to keep celebrating the holidays like you always have!