Helping Your Parent with Dementia Enjoy the Holidays

The holidays were made for family time. And yet, when you have a parent with dementia, maintaining simple holiday traditions and working to accommodate their illness can become a lot more challenging. 

This time of year can be just as challenging for adults with dementia when added confusion can occur thanks to the many changes to routine that take place during the holiday season. 

As a caregiver, there are ways to safely modify holiday celebrations to help your parent with dementia enjoy the holidays. The key is to manage expectations and make small adjustments to your traditions. Here are a few to do just that.

Keep Things Familiar by Sticking to a Routine

Though it can be tempting to break up your parent’s routine with holiday celebrations, it’s important that you stick to their usual sleep and meal schedule.  For individuals with dementia, routine is essential to keep them grounded. That’s because when these daily staples become disrupted, it can lead to unnecessary confusion. 

Create a Safe, Quiet Space at Gatherings

The best way to keep the house quiet for your parent is to limit the number of guests at your celebration. But, if you plan to have family and friends visit along with your parent, set aside one room as a quiet space. Large celebrations can quickly become overwhelming for individuals with dementia, so a quiet room will give them a space to decompress.  

You can make the room even more comfortable by including cozy blankets, gentle music, and a comfortable sofa. 

Consider Celebrating at Your Parent’s Memory Care Residence

If your parent resides at a memory care residence, consider bringing the celebration to them. Changing environments can be disruptive to folks with dementia and celebrating in a familiar space can greatly reduce the amount of stress they experience. 

Even if you can’t spend the entire day there with them, schedule a visit for a portion of the day. You can even participate in some of the activities the care facility has planned. Keeping your parent company, even for a couple of hours, will help them enjoy the holiday that much more. 

Plan Simple, Yet Meaningful Activities

Even if your parent is limited in the types of activities they can engage in, there are still small ways to plan something meaningful for them. Some ideas are looking at old photo albums together, watching a favorite holiday movie, singing songs, and doing other simple tasks such as hanging ornaments or decorating cookies. Don’t worry too much about completing the activity. Even if your parent can only engage for less than an hour, it still makes a huge difference to them.

Prepare Your Visitors

For visitors who don’t see your parent as regularly, consider providing them an update before they visit. Let them know about any major changes in behavior and how they can best communicate with your parent at this time. To help the visit go more smoothly, suggest some activities that would be enjoyable for your parent.

Remember Self-Care

Perhaps the most important thing to remember when enjoying the holiday with a parent with dementia is to take care of yourself. Delegate tasks to different family members and don’t try to do it all. And focus on the traditions that matter to you. Do this, and you’ll be more present and patient with your parent and enjoy your holiday that much more.

When it comes to caring for a parent with dementia during the holidays, keep it simple. Focus on maintaining a routine, planning calm and easy activities, and managing the stream of visitors.  

And remember, be gentle with yourself and lean on your support system. While it can feel overwhelming to care for your aging parent during the holidays, there are still many ways to create lots of meaningful holiday cheer. 

We welcome you and your loved ones to visit Pleasant View Communities and our memory care services. We’ll take you on a tour of our community, including two living areas specifically designed for residents with dementia or dementia-related illnesses. At Pleasant View, our skilled and compassionate staff care for your loved ones in a safe, secure, and purposeful environment. Contact us today to schedule a tour.


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