How should I include my parent with dementia in holiday celebrations?
December 15, 2021
Your family is making plans for the holidays. You’d like to spend time with your parents, but you’re not sure how things will go now that one of them has dementia.
Will they be able to get through the family celebrations okay? Is there anything you can do to make sure festivities don’t go off the rails?
You’re wise to be concerned. The holidays can be very challenging for someone with dementia. Being around so many people – not to mention fancy lights and seasonal music constantly playing in the background – can be overwhelming when your brain isn’t processing information like it used to.
The best way to make sure everyone enjoys themselves – including your parents – is to scale back your expectations. It may mean changing some time-honoured traditions, but, hey, you’ve already been through a pandemic lockdown. You’ve got this.
Here are some suggestions.
Big family gatherings may now be too much for your parent with dementia to handle. Consider scaling things down. Instead of dinner, have small numbers of people visit them for lunch or mid-morning coffee with treats. (People with dementia are often at their best in the morning and mid-day.) Consider wearing name tags or placing cards in front of plates.
Look for ways to help your other parent enjoy themselves. They’ve likely been spending a lot of their time caregiving and haven’t been getting out of the house much. They’re probably starved for company. Give them a chance to socialize with other visitors by sitting with your parent with dementia.
Decorations and music
Bright lights and holiday music may overload your parent’s senses. Turn off some of the lights and turn down the music. Reposition or remove any decorations that could be tripping hazards.
Manage your family’s expectations
Encourage your family to do go with the flow. If your parent with dementia says something that’s incorrect or repetitive, make sure everyone knows to let it go. Warn other members of the family that a visit may have to be cut short if your parent gets tired. But let everyone know that even if your parent may seem distracted or confused at times, it’s still wonderful to be together as a family.