Community Stories/News

Understanding Dementia: Caregiving Tips for the Holidays

Holidays are a time of celebration and family gatherings, but often caregivers may feel overwhelmed as they try to balance their needs with those of their loved one with dementia. Extra activities of the holiday season can sometimes disrupt the daily routine of someone living with dementia.

Rethinking how you celebrate the holidays by modifying activities and keeping things simple can alleviate some of your stress and help both you and your loved one enjoy the festivities.

Less is Better: Avoid blinking lights, large displays and decorations that require rearranging the furniture, as these can be confusing to the person with dementia.

Stay Safe: Use battery operated or electric lights instead of candles. Keep cords away from traffic areas and secure your Christmas tree to the wall. Replace fragile ornaments with unbreakable ones. Minimize decorations that resemble fruits or vegetables as these may be mistaken as edible.

Music to Soothe: Choose music that is familiar and soothing and keep the volume low.

Downsize Gatherings: Instead of a large family gathering, plan one or two smaller get-togethers at the best time of day for the person living with dementia.

Cook Together: If your loved one likes to cook and is still able to be in the kitchen, involve them in baking cookies or a favorite dish. Lay out the ingredients and cookware ahead of time, so that the preparation flows smoothly.

A Quiet Corner: When guests are expected, create a quiet space where your loved one can have time alone or where they can visit with one person at a time.

Other Activities: Open cards together, watch a favorite holiday movie, sing Christmas songs, read a favorite holiday story, or look at photo albums. Plan a ride around the neighborhood to look at holiday lights and decorations.

Reach Out:  Consider participating in a respite program or support group.  For more information, contact the Alzheimer’s Association 24/7 Helpline: 800-272-3900 or

Remember, you can’t do it all, so choose the activities and traditions that are the most meaningful to you and simplify them. Ask other family members to pitch in and help with cooking, tree decorating, addressing greeting cards, and shopping. Carve out time for yourself to take a break from your caregiving responsibilities by calling on a friend or family member to spend time with your loved one.

Mary Bates, MS, CT, is a Certified Dementia Practitioner. She is the Assisted Living and Memory Care Director of Summit by Morrison, a senior living community offering independent living, assisted living, memory care, and respite care.

Through this column, Mary will share the experience, knowledge, and resources she and her team rely on, anticipating that it will be useful for anyone living with, caring for, or coming into contact with a person with dementia. Send your questions to Understanding Dementia at Summit, 56 Summit Drive, Whitefield, NH 03598 or email Mary will share information and answer as many questions as possible through this column. 

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