Adjust your expectations. You can still find joy and meaning during the holiday season, but things probably need to be scaled down, to benefit your loved one as well as yourself! Give yourself permission, for example, to tone down the decorations. Use less! Blinking lights and large displays can cause disorientation for the person with dementia, so it’s better to keep it simple. Involve your loved one in preparations, but let them participate as they are able. Maybe just stirring the batter, or rolling the dough for a bit, will be enough. Maybe you can open holiday cards together, and take turns reading them aloud, at a nice relaxed pace.
Consider the individual when you choose where your celebration will occur. Some people might do fine with a family gathering in someone’s home, if it’s not too overwhelming. But if a person has become used to their new routine in an assisted living or MC community, being taken out of that environment could prove disruptive and upsetting. Bringing the person back to their new home at the end of the festivities might also be very disconcerting for everyone. At a certain point, people with dementia will do better if the holidays come to them. A small family celebration could be held at the assisted living or care center, maybe in a private dining room, early in the day, when people with dementia have more energy.
Whether you choose to celebrate at home or at your loved one’s place, it’s important to keep the environment calm. Consider that a combination of loud conversation, music, active children, pets and Christmas decorations might cause a person with dementia considerable anxiety. If you do bring your loved one to your home, make sure there is a quiet room they can rest in, if a break is needed.
Remember to trust yourself. You know your loved one. If you have any inkling that your holiday plans might be “too much” for the person, scale back. Pick and choose the events you will involve them in. You may need to set firm boundaries with other family members, but it will be worth it. You don’t have to “do it all” to enjoy the warmth of the holidays.
Many of these tips and more can be found at www.alz.org.