Creating a Joyful Holiday in the Midst of Alzheimer’s

Senior couple sit in open car trunk and hold spark sticks in their hands


For many, the best part about the holidays is getting together with family and friends. If you’re used to entertaining during the holiday season, you may be reluctant to keep that tradition alive if you’re caring for someone living with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. But it’s important to continue living your life outside of your caregiver role and continue to engage in activities that bring you joy. Here are some tips to have a joyful holiday event while still being a considerate caregiver.

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 holiday gatherings small

Large crowds can be very confusing and upsetting to someone with Alzheimer’s, so it’s best to keep the gathering more intimate. Instead of a party with people milling about, you may want to have a sit-down dinner. If caregiving has reduced the amount of time you have to prepare, make it a potluck.

Prepare visitors on what to expect

If you invite people over, let your guests know what they can expect with your loved one. “She may not recognize you” and “She may act out in strange ways” will help your guests understand the toll the disease has taken and not to be offended or take it personally. Let your guests know that even if it appears your loved one doesn’t seem to know what’s going on, that their presence does, in fact, make a difference and that time spent together will be meaningful for him or her.

Involve your loved one in the preparations

Make sure you include your loved one in preparing for the event. This will help them be prepared, so when guests show up, they won’t be overwhelmed. This will also give them a sense of purpose as well as a stake in having the event be a success. If they like to cook, invite them to help and have them decorate the table. If there’s going to be a gift exchange, have them wrap gifts.

Be flexible

If your loved one becomes overwhelmed, have a quiet space ready where they can go. If they start acting out in a way that’s inappropriate, be prepared and have a plan of action ready.

Give appropriately

If guests are bringing gifts, make sure they bring gifts that are appropriate for your loved one’s new situation. Framed pictures with that person with your loved one may stimulate memories and allow for reminiscing. A gift certificate at a hair or nail salon can make the person feel pampered and cared for. Anything that stimulates the senses is a good gift and can include home-baked cookies or soaps and shampoos. Soft, comfortable clothing that’s easy to put on and take off is also a good choice.

Consider getting outside help

If you need a little time for yourself this holiday season, consider getting an in-home caregiver to help. A home care professional from Family Home Health can assist with a multitude of errands and tasks including bathing, dressing and grooming your loved one as well as grocery shopping, preparing meals and doing light housework.  

With a little patience and preparation, holiday entertaining can still be an enjoyable time. Enjoy the season!

Categories: Dementia