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Alzheimer’s and Dementia Patients and a Happy Holiday Season

Posted Oct 12 2010 8:03pm

The Holidays are just around the corner and that means lots of fun with parties, dinners, festive activities, gift-giving and family traditions. Many of the traditions we celebrate each holiday season have been passed down from generation to generation.

Some of us may have an unrealistic belief that Family traditions must never be broken. In reality, however, new family traditions are born because an old tradition is no longer applicable. When a family is no longer able to keep an old tradition, they often create a new custom or tradition to replace it. The new tradition becomes favored and revered just as the old tradition had been.  Holidays are considered the most stressful time of year, due to high expectations that are often not met.  So flexibility is the key to pleasant, memorable holiday festivities. Keep your expectations low and plan simple, easy activities to share with the Dementia and Alzheimer’s patient.

At first, family members may feel disappointed if their customs or traditions are not maintained due to a Dementia patient living in the home, but it is important to be realistic. Expectations should never be so high that you are totally inflexible to accept the changes that have been made for the new members of your family.

If you have accepted a family member into your home who has Alzheimer’s or shows signs of Dementia, there will be changes in the way your family handles holidays and family gatherings.  Your family gatherings won’t necessarily be less than they were before, but they may be different than in the past as allowances will be made for the new member of the family.

It is important to be realistic about what is manageable both for the person with dementia and you as the care-giver.

You must ask yourself:

  • What adjustments do you need to make so that the holidays are as stress free as possible?
  • Do you need to entertain as lavishly as you have always done or could you produce simpler meals or ask friends and family to bring along a dish?
  • Would it be better to have just one or two visitors rather than a houseful, particularly if the person with dementia finds it hard to cope with lots of people and noise in the background.

Often Dementia and Alzheiemr’s sufferers become fearful, agitated, and even confused when surrounded by a large number of  people. Even when all in a group are family the Alzheimer’s sufferer can still become confused since it’s difficult to remember everyone. Sometimes they may say or do things that are inappropriate if they feel stressed. They may embarrass you and feel humiliated themselves.

If you must have a large gathering with lots of people, then you might choose to have a smaller celebration for the patient and immediate family later, even on a different day perhaps. And certainly, the patient would feel  more at ease and happier with less people.

Even though the dementia patient needs more quiet time and less festive activities for the holidays, there are many ways they can celebrate the holidays with you and perhaps start a brand new tradition or two:

  • Help in preparing the holiday meal
  • Attending religious services
  • Help with Holiday decorations
  • Sing holiday or traditional songs
  • Go for a walk
  • Watch a favorite holiday movie


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