Life is sweet at home

How to plan dementia-friendly holidays

November is Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month and National Family Caregivers’ Month.

Let’s be honest – the holidays are stressful. There’s all the shopping, cooking and day-of- celebration chaos. The kids are running around like wild monkeys, the babies are crying and the TV is blaring.

Combine all this craziness and cacophony with some level of dementia and you’ve got a recipe for stress and panic. But the holidays don’t have to be overwhelming for our loved ones with Alzheimer’s. We can incorporate tips from the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America and the Alzheimer’s Association to orchestrate a fun, festive and dementia-friendly celebration.

November is all about Alzheimer’s, caregivers

As we head into the white-hot frenzy of the holidays, let’s reflect on the fact that November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month and National Family Caregivers’ Month. That means it is an especially good time to consider that nearly 5.4 million people in the country have Alzheimer’s or other dementia. It is also a good time to give thanks for what we do have, including feeling gratitude for the devoted family caregivers who care for their loved ones.

General suggestions for surviving the holidays

Keep events calm and safe.

In the Fall 2017 AFA Care Quarterly, Deborah Shouse suggests families keep several overarching principles in mind during the holidays. The author of “Connecting in the Land of Dementia: Creative Activities to Explore Together” writes, “Noise, too many people and too long a gathering may be wearing and confusing for people who are living with dementia.”

To avoid your loved one feeling overwhelmed and wanting to go home, plan the celebration during her best hours, remind friends and relatives to re-introduce themselves and make quiet times for one-on-one visits or rests. Shouse recommends family members find ways to adapt family traditions such as making cookies. For example, pre-mix the dough and focus the fun on cutting out and decorating the cookies. Another general idea is to create new traditions like making a scrapebook or taking the holiday to them where they live.

10 Holiday Survival Tips from the Alzheimer’s Association

  • Plan ahead. Think about what activities will be the most difficult, socially and emotionally. Talk to family and friends prior to the event and keep things calm, eat earlier in the day.
  • Caregiver care for self. Set limits on how much you can do, ask for help, attend your support group and arrange for some respite care.
  • Prep your person for the event. Talk and look at photos of who will be there, plan a “quiet” room, play familiar music and serve familiar foods, schedule visits one person at a time.
  • Prep family & friends. Give them an honest appraisal of the person’s current condition, share about behaviors and educate how best to communicate with the person.
  • Everyone share in activity planning. Consider taking walks, making cookies or looking at photo albums, encourage young ones to join in.
  • Communicate well. Be calm, speak slowly in a relaxed tone, avoid criticism (“Don’t you remember?”), use their name, be patient, do not argue or correct.
  • Gift giving. Encourage folks to give practical, useful gifts such as an ID bracelet, easy on-and-off clothing, audio and/or video tapes.
  • Keep things safe. Avoid confusion, frustration and wandering by assigning a “buddy” to watch the person. Keep walkways open for wheelchairs and walkers, limit access to stairs, the kitchen, check temperature of food, supervise meds, keep emergency info handy.
  • Travel wisely. Never leave the person alone, use familiar transportation and avoid rushing, Arrange for wheelchairs ahead of time, carry ID such as Medic Alert® + Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return® bracelet and clothing labels
  • Sources of Support. Families can call the AA 727-578-2558 or the 24-hour Helpline at  1-800-772-8672 to answer questions about warning signs and to assist persons with dementia  and caregivers. The Helpline will be open all Christmas day and News Year day, as well as year round.


To read the list in its entirety visit

Alzheimer’s Association:; 1-800-272-3900