Navigating the Holidays with Dementia

MILWAUKEE, WI, NOV. 15, 2022 – While the holidays are a joyous time for many families, they can be challenging for the more than 120,000 Wisconsinites living with Alzheimer’s or dementia and the more than 198,000 serving as caregivers. The Alzheimer’s Association provides strategies to support families on a journey with dementia during the holiday season.
 
"Often the holidays bring changes in daily routines, which can present challenges for people living with dementia, who find comfort in routine,” said Kate Kahles, Program Manager, Alzheimer’s Association. “Noise, unfamiliar faces that aren't seen regularly, and adjusted meal and sleep times can lead to an increase in anxiety and agitation. It's important to plan ahead, be aware of your surroundings, know what things bring your loved ones comfort, and incorporate as many aspects of a routine as possible in the midst of holiday celebrations. The Alzheimer's Association 24/7 Helpline, support groups, and education programs are great resources to help you learn more and plan for successful holiday celebrations this season."
                 
The Alzheimer’s Association provides 6 strategies to make the holidays run more smoothly:
 

  1. Involve the person living with dementia
Ask him or her to help you prepare food, wrap packages, help decorate or set the table. Maintain the person’s normal routine as much as possible, so that holiday preparations don’t become disruptive or confusing.
 
  1. Prepare the person living with dementia
Talk about and show photos of family members and friends who will be visiting. Consider having multiple holiday meals with smaller groups of people instead of larger gatherings. Have a "quiet" room in case things get too hectic.
 
  1. Select activities everyone can do together
Consider taking walks, icing cookies, telling stories, making a memory book or family tree. To encourage conversation, place magazines, scrapbooks, or photo albums in reach.
 
  1. Offer communication tips for family and friends
Address the person by name and identify who you are by name. Be patient, supportive and a good listener. Maintain eye contact and allow time for their responses. Use short and simple phrases.
 
 
  1. Adapt gift giving
Provide people with suggestions for useful and enjoyable gifts for the person, such as comfortable, easy-to-remove clothing; favorite music; photo albums of family and friends; or favorite treats. If asked for gift ideas, you may want to suggest a gift certificate or something that will help make caregiving easier, like house cleaning; lawn, laundry services; or food delivery gift cards.
 
  1. Familiarize others with the situation in advance
The holidays are full of emotions, so it can help to let friends and family members know in advance what to expect. You may find it easier to share this in an email, detailing changes they may notice.
Free Resources
  • The Alzheimer’s Association is offering a virtual, statewide program that can help navigate communication strategies:
    • Effective Communication Strategies – Saturday, Dec. 10 at 10:00-11:00 am. Register online or call 800.272.3900.
  • The Alzheimer’s Association 24/7 Helpline (800.272.3900) is available around the clock, 365 days a year. Through this free service, specialists and master’s-level clinicians offer confidential support and information to people living with dementia, caregivers, families and the public.
 
About the Alzheimer’s Association®
The Alzheimer’s Association is a worldwide voluntary health organization dedicated to Alzheimer’s care, support and research. Our mission is to lead the way to end Alzheimer’s and all other dementia — by accelerating global research, driving risk reduction and early detection, and maximizing quality care and support. Our vision is a world without Alzheimer’s and all other dementia®. To learn more about Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia and find local support services and resources, visit alz.org/wi.
###