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Older man and woman decorating christmas cookies-Dementia Activities

Ways to Create a Positive Holiday Season for a Person Living with Dementia

The holidays are a meaningful time, full of festive events, breathtaking lights and decorations, and joyful reminders of family and loved ones. After all, there’s a reason the songs call it the “most wonderful time of the year!”

If you’re a care partner living with or caring for a person with dementia, you might be conflicted about how to approach the holidays. Of course, you want them to have a memorable and enjoyable holiday season, but you don’t want to confuse or overwhelm them. 

While the holidays can create some complications (many aspects of the season are at their core disruptive to daily routines), there are still ways you can create a meaningful and positive holiday season!  

Rethink Decorations 

Think about how certain decorations may make a person living with dementia feel. While your dancing snowman or light-up wreath might be your favorite decorations, they can be startling or overstimulating to your loved one. Even something as seemingly harmless as a fake fruit display could be confusing to a person with dementia. You don’t have to forgo the decorations altogether, though. Just consider decorations from the perspective of how a person living with dementia may interact with them.

Tips to Consider:

  • Avoid rearranging a familiar space to set up a tree or decorations. This can lead to increased confusion and frustration for your family member. 
  • Avoid anything with real flames or loose electrical wires. 
  • Music is a powerful tool in dementia care. Play your family member’s favorite holiday music at a soft volume to create a soothing environment. 

Educate Family and Guests 

While you may see and care for Mom and Dad every day, other family members may not. To ensure a successful visit:

  1. Talk with your visitors to prepare them for what they might see and feel. 
  2. Be sure that they know the best ways to communicate, including approaching from the front, getting on their level, and smiling. 
  3. Explain the importance of the daily routine and suggest ways that they can be involved. 
  4. Lastly, ensure that all visitors understand not to argue, correct, or question the person with dementia. If you’d like a pre-holiday consultation from one of our dementia experts, please contact us directly

Once everyone knows and understands what they can do to help, you can have a meaningful reunion with family and friends. 

Encourage Involvement 

Cultivating a sense of purpose can be extremely valuable when caring for an individual with dementia. Asking them to help with tasks and activities around the house will help them feel involved and give opportunities for meaningful bonding. 

Some activities you can do together include:

  • Baking and decorating cookies
  • Wrapping presents 
  • Making wreaths or other decorations 
  • Writing and sending out holiday cards 
  • Setting the table and preparing the holiday meal

While these tasks might not be done as perfectly or as quickly as if you had done them yourself, the important thing is that you spent time together, and they feel valued and accomplished. Depending on your loved one’s stage of dementia and needs, it is especially important that you schedule dedicated time to these activities outside of the hustle and bustle of full holiday activities with lots of guests around. 

If you want to plan other, more involved holiday activities and outings with your family, read our guide to dementia-friendly activities in San Antonio

Think About Location 

It sounds ideal to have all your loved ones in one place for the holidays, right? You might even have a vision of everyone gathered around the fire in your childhood home. This sounds nice in theory, but in reality, it’s essential that your family member is celebrating and spending time somewhere they feel comfortable. If this happens to be in their home, that’s great, but if they have been living in a dementia care community, this could be where they feel most familiar and comfortable. 

Consider decorating their space in the community and bringing other family members there to have a small gathering. Many communities even host holiday events open to family, so this could be a great time to get to know the staff and other residents. Speak with your dementia care team to help you determine whether taking your loved one home for the holidays would help them or be disruptive.  Having a good plan in place can help everyone involved to feel more secure.

Take Care of Yourself  

It can be easy to focus on creating the perfect holiday season for others that you forget to focus on yourself. The holidays are already a hectic time, and trying to do too much at once can result in you having even less energy than usual. Follow these tips to ensure you can enjoy the season, too. 

  • Set realistic expectations for yourself. 
  • Try to exercise daily, get enough sleep, and eat well (but don’t be too strict; go ahead and have that sugar cookie!). 
  • Ask for help from other family members or neighbors. Maybe they could sit with Mom or Dad while you do grocery shopping or clean the house. 
  • Remember the reason for the season. Whenever you get stressed, or things don’t seem to be going right, remind yourself what the holidays are about. Your family member with dementia doesn’t care if you burnt the potatoes or that the gifts are delayed in the mail; they just want to be in a positive environment with the people they love and trust. 

Create Unconditional Joy This Holiday Season

As a dementia care provider in San Antonio, a critical component of Bella Groves’ care methodology is whole-person vitality. Just because a person has dementia doesn’t mean they stop enjoying holiday music, food, and other celebrations. It just means that care partners and family members need to put a little more time and intentionality into helping them enjoy these things. While doing this does take more time and planning, it will be worth it to create meaningful and joyful moments together. 

To discover more about how Bella Groves’ dementia care community in San Antonio, Texas, is helping create unconditional joy, visit our website.

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