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Managing Memory Loss During the Holidays

A senior man and his adult son wrap gifts together.

The holidays can be such a special time of year. They’re a chance to gather with family, enjoy cherished traditions and introduce some festive cheer into everyday life. But for someone with memory loss due to Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia, the season’s festivities can be disorienting and overwhelming. If you’re hoping to continue your holiday traditions while ensuring that a loved one struggling with loss of memory feels safe, here are some suggestions:

Create a Safe, Calm Space

People struggling with memory loss thrive in quiet, familiar environments with predictable schedules. To create a tranquil, safe space, consider the following:

  • Décor. Avoid blinking lights, animatronic decorations or displays that alter the look of a familiar room.
  • Safety precautions. Battery-operated candles are a safer option than having an open flame. Avoid decorations that could be mistaken for edible treats, such as artificial fruits or candies.
  • Number of guests. Keep celebrations small, quiet and relaxed.
  • A quiet retreat. If you’re having visitors, reserve a quiet nook for your loved one to retreat to if they need time alone or space to visit with a guest one-on-one.
  • Regular routine. Schedule festivities for the time of day when your loved one is at their best. Keep to your normal schedule for mealtimes and bedtime, as much as possible.

Prepare Holiday Visitors

If you have friends or family who haven’t seen your loved one for a while, let them know about changes in behavior or appearance to help them set realistic expectations. Also share tips on such topics as:

  • Communication. Educate visitors on the importance of using reassurance and redirection instead of criticism or correction when talking to someone with memory loss. Suggest conversational topics that your loved one enjoys, too.
  • Symptoms. Explain that agitation, confusion and behavioral changes are symptoms of your loved one’s condition and mustn’t be taken personally.
  • Appropriate activities. Let guests know which activities you have planned and whether any long-standing traditions are being changed to accommodate your loved one’s needs.
  • The value of presence. Remind guests that even if your loved one doesn’t remember the interaction, the time spent together remains meaningful.

Choose Dementia-Friendly Activities

Your loved one may need to play a different role in your celebrations than they did in years past, but there are many ways they can still participate in the season’s festivities. Try simple activities such as:

  • A singalong. Music can have a therapeutic effect on people with memory loss. Play some favorite holiday tunes and encourage your loved one to sing, clap or dance along.
  • Scrapbooking. A notebook, old holiday cards or magazines, scraps of wrapping paper, glue and safety scissors are all you need to enjoy a creative holiday task together.
  • Favorite holiday traditions. Tailor traditional activities, like baking cookies or decorating the house, to your loved one’s abilities by breaking tasks down into short, simple steps.
  • Meaningful media. Enjoy holiday movies and books together or look through photo albums as a meaningful way to enjoy quality time together.

Prioritize Self-Care

It can be easy to forget your own needs amid the bustle of the holidays and the needs of your loved one, but taking care of yourself can help prevent burnout and ensure that the holiday season is enjoyable for you, too. Here are some ways to give yourself the gift of self-care this holiday season:

  • Set realistic expectations. You can’t do it all, so focus on the activities that are most meaningful to you. Let family know that you may not be able to contribute to celebrations as much as you have in the past.
  • Delegate responsibilities. Recruit family to help with tasks like cleaning the house, addressing holiday cards or mailing gifts.
  • Schedule “me time.” Ask a family member or friend to give you a break so you can enjoy a holiday outing without the responsibilities of caregiving.

Exceptional Memory Care Services at Signature Pointe

In Signature Pointe’s memory care neighborhood, we emphasize each resident’s unique abilities, creating a safe, comforting environment where art and music therapy, homestyle dining and a tranquil flower garden are just a few of the amenities that make residents feel right at home. To learn more about our nurturing approach to memory care, contact us or schedule a visit.