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How to Include a Loved One with Alzheimer's in Holiday Gatherings

How to Include a Loved One with Alzheimer's in Holiday Gatherings

The holidays are a time when people like to entertain at home. In some families, these gatherings are a tradition that goes back many years. If a senior loved one has Alzheimer’s disease, however, entertaining can create new challenges.

You may be wondering if you can continue to host holiday gatherings while not jeopardizing a loved one’s safety or well-being.

Hosting Holiday Gatherings When a Senior Has Alzheimer’s Disease

Whether your loved one lives with you or is still living independently, these tips can help. You can allow the senior to feel connected and engaged without putting their safety at risk.

  1. Plan around the senior’s best and worst times. Most adults with Alzheimer’s have times of day that are better—and worse—than others. Depending on the stage of their Alzheimer’s disease, you might find that mornings are best and evenings are worst. Think about what kind of entertaining you could do during your loved one’s best time of day. For example, if mid-day is their best time, consider hosting a Sunday brunch instead of an evening cocktail party or dinner. It might not be exactly as you’ve done it in the past, but adapting your plan will allow your loved one to participate. 
  2. Keep decorations and changes to the home at a minimum. People with memory loss do best when their environment looks and feels familiar. While it might be tempting to go all out decorating before a holiday gathering, doing so can be confusing for your family member with Alzheimer’s. Try to keep the decorations and changes you make to the home in check, especially in the rooms where the senior spends most of their time. 
  3. Limit your guest list this year. Loud, hectic parties can be overwhelming for an adult with Alzheimer’s or a similar form of dementia. The damage the disease causes to the brain makes processing such an environment very challenging. It can increase anxiety and agitation. Consider hosting a more intimate gathering this holiday season instead. If you explain the situation to loved ones who don’t make the cut, they are sure to understand. 
  4. Inform guests ahead of time. Those closest to you may already know about your loved one’s situation but not be sure how to react. Others you haven’t seen in a while might not know about your family member’s diagnosis. As RSVPs from guests come back, let them know about the situation. It might also help to send them a few tips for communicating with your loved one and a few ideas for starting a conversation. 
  5. Create a peaceful, quiet space. If the loved one who has Alzheimer’s lives with you, make sure their bedroom is set up and ready for them to retreat to if the party gets to be too much. If they don’t live with you, create a quiet space for them to relax. Have soft music ready to play and maybe a few calming activities set up, such as a basket of towels to fold or a family photo album to look through. You could also ask party guests to visit with your family member one-on-one in the quiet space. It can be a meaningful way to connect.

One final suggestion is to consider using respite care during the busy holiday season. Your senior loved one can be a guest at a senior living community for a few days to give you time to relax and celebrate the holidays. Respite guests can participate in all of the season’s festivities that take place at the community. Call the Five Star Senior Living community nearest you to learn more!

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