Dementia and The Holidays: What to Expect with Your Loved One

Dementia and The Holidays

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, it’s only natural to start thinking about the holidays. While it’s a happy time for most families, it’s important to be mindful that it’s also a very tough time for others who may be coping with serious issues or life transitions. It can be especially hard for those who have a loved one with a dementia diagnosis as the holidays don’t look the same anymore. Century-long traditions like decorating the tree may be forgotten and your loved one with dementia may not even remember Christmas is coming. It’s completely normal to be upset over this, but there are ways to still make the most out of the season and ensure your family can experience some holiday cheer.

Space out holiday visits. Understandably, everyone in your family is going to handle the dementia diagnosis of a loved one differently. It’s important to give each person enough time to sit with the news and digest it before the holidays roll around. After everyone is made aware of the situation and has had ample time to process, next comes the conversation about how the holidays will be different this year. Seniors with dementia can easily become overwhelmed by big crowds, so the traditional Christmas dinner with your children, siblings, nieces and nephews may not be the best bet. Instead, discuss alternate arrangements with your family that will put the needs of your loved one first. Spacing out holiday visits over the course of a few days can be much less overwhelming than one big Christmas celebration. This may seem like a downer, but staggering the holiday celebrations will allow each person in your family the opportunity to have a more meaningful connection with your loved one.

Go with the flow! This can be especially difficult if you’re more of a Type A personality, but it’s essential to adopt the “go with the flow” philosophy when it comes to dementia. Because the forgetfulness comes and goes, it’s much easier for everyone to just roll with what your loved one needs in that moment instead of trying to correct them. Attempting to “correct” their behavior could lead to even more feelings of confusion or agitation. For example, if your loved one says it’s time for dessert after the appetizers, let them eat cake!

Try starting new traditions. Depending on the severity of their diagnosis, your loved one might not be able to take part in the same yearly traditions like going to cut down the Christmas tree or cooking a 12 course holiday dinner from scratch. However, this doesn’t mean the holiday spirit is gone. Try something new with your loved one like wrapping gifts or making ornaments together. Avoid using any decorations that are too flashy with blinking lights or loud noises as they can be especially unsettling for people with dementia. Painting a snowy Christmas scene on a round ornament could be very fun and even therapeutic for your loved one.

Memory support for seniors in Camden County NJ

One of the best ways your loved one can maximize their cognitive abilities and retain their independence is through professional memory support in a community setting. At Collingswood, Tapestries memory care residents have the opportunity to live in a caring, homelike environment where they are safe to enjoy their hobbies and have meaningful experiences this holiday season, as well as every day after.

We also have Life Enrichment Team Specialists on site 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to provide specialized support for Tapestries residents, which includes personal care and cognitive exercises to maximize quality of life.

If your loved one is showing early signs of dementia, please call UMC at Collingswood today to find out how our memory care team can meet the needs of your senior parent. To learn more about Tapestries memory care in Camden County, please visit our website at:

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