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Celebrating the Holidays When a Loved One has Alzheimer’s

Celebrating the Holidays When a Loved One has Alzheimer’s

<!–[CDATA[The holiday season is a time of joy and excitement filled with events, activities and meals that are not a part of your normal routine. For an adult with Alzheimer’s disease, the sights and sounds of the season can be overwhelming. But there are ways that you can all enjoy the season together. Planning ahead is the key.


Helping an Indiana Senior with Alzheimer’s Enjoy the Holidays

While your Indiana senior loved one may not remember the meaning behind the holidays, he or she may still enjoy the familiarity of the songs, prayers and traditions.

  1. Think back to holiday celebrations of the past and try to remember what made them special for your family:
    • What was your loved one’s favorite music or hymns?
    • Can you include some of the religious customs or your loved one’s childhood, or those that reflect their ethnicity?
    • Pull out those old photo albums, home movies or scrapbooks from holidays past. Your loved one may be able to share precious memories of days gone by.
  2. What food was a favorite of your senior loved one? The smell and taste of old holiday favorites can be some of the longest lasting memories:
    • Let your aging loved one help you prepare a few of their favorite dishes or baked goods while you supervise and offer support.
    • Consider using essential oils or fragrance sprays in scents reminiscent of your loved one’s favorite holidays. (Just be sure they don’t aggravate allergies!)
  3. Try to avoid environments or situations that may cause over-stimulation. It can often lead to behavioral challenges for a person living with Alzheimer’s disease:
    • Avoid crowded stores and shopping centers. These can be overwhelming, even to those of us that don’t have dementia.
    • Stick to your senior loved one’s normal routine as much as possible.
    • Keep holiday gatherings small.
    • Turn off music and background noises during the meal to avoid over stimulation.
  4. Tone down the twinkle when you are decorating:
    • Many seniors living with dementia have trouble with blinking or twinkling lights. Stick with non-twinkling lights and less bling.
    • Avoid decorations that are easily breakable.
    • Be careful of decorations that look like food or candy. It can be tough for someone with Alzheimer’s to distinguish real from decoration.
    • Be especially wary of Menorah and advent wreath candles. An open flame around someone with dementia can be a real danger. Consider substituting battery operated candles for the real thing this year.
  5. Ask your loved one to help with simple holiday preparations.
    • Perhaps they can help to wash the fruit or vegetables or lay out the cheese and crackers.
    • They may be able to help hold the tape while wrapping packages or hold their finger while you tie a bow.

    When the Indiana senior you love has Alzheimer’s, the holiday season may need to look a little different for a few years. Embrace the chance to spend time with them.

    Don’t aim for perfection. Try to be flexible and willing to change your expectations. With careful planning, the holidays can be a happy time for both the family and your loved one with Alzheimer’s.

    To learn more about keeping the holidays safe for an Indiana loved one with Alzheimer’s, visit Caring through the Holidays from the Alzheimer’s Association.

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