Celebrating Holidays with an Alzheimer’s Parent

I always look forward to celebrating with family during the winter holiday season. Through the years, we’ve established many traditions and have created new ones due to my mother’s Alzheimer’s. Though she is no longer able to bake her famous sugar cookies or decorate the home as she used to, our new normal is just as meaningful.

If you find yourself needing to adjust your holiday traditions due to a loved one with Alzheimer’s, here are a few tips that may be beneficial to keep in mind:

  • Keep gatherings small – While holidays tend to bring large groups together, for those with Alzheimer’s, large gatherings tend to cause loud conversation and a consistent flurry of activity which can lead to confusion, stress and anxiety for your loved one.
  • Set expectations – It’s a good idea to speak with everyone attending the celebration about what to expect. Your loved one may forget names or act in ways others are not used to. Keep them updated on the latest with your loved one’s condition and what to expect.
  • Celebrate earlier in the day and shorten the duration – Some people with Alzheimer’s get more confused heading into the evening hours. Gatherings often lead to more conversation and activity than your loved one is used to and can tire them more quickly. If this is a concern, come together for a shorter period of time.
  • Take time to plan the day – Remember that your loved one is used to a specific routine each day, so plan the celebration around that routine. Stick to normal rest times. Don’t forget medication schedules, but do swap in meaningful activities that encourage your loved one to participate. Baking desserts, watching home movies, or looking at family albums are all great activities to insert into the plan for the day that honor traditions your family may be used to.
  • Keep an eye on your loved one – Designate one or two people to stick close to the person with Alzheimer’s. The disease impacts the ability to communicate, making it important to look for signs of discomfort and need. And if they are prone to wandering, you’ll have someone close by ensuring their safety.

Alzheimer’s may impact how you celebrate this holiday season, but it doesn’t mean the holidays won’t be as special. And if you’re a family caregiver, take some time for yourself this holiday season. As always, we’re here to speak with you about your specific situation, offering guidance, answering questions, and providing care.