The holidays can be a stressful time for people living with dementia and their families.

For caretakers, it can feel overwhelming to keep up seasonal traditions while giving your loved one the care and attention they deserve.

For people living with dementia, the hustle and bustle can also bring on feelings of loss, social anxiety and emptiness, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. While some people might love all the festivities, others might find them confusing or overwhelming.

If you’re caring for someone with memory loss, here are some tips to help you and your loved one celebrate the season with minimal stress and maximum enjoyment.


Grandmother, daughter and grandkids looking at photo album

Set Realistic Expectations (Especially for Yourself!)

Things are different this year. Even if your family member has had dementia for a while, chances are their condition has likely changed since last holiday season.

This year, give yourself permission to adjust your holiday traditions and events to your unique needs and situation. For example, if you’ve always hosted a lavish dinner party, consider inviting a small group of friends and family over for a potluck instead. If there’s room in the budget, hire a team to help you prepare for — and clean up after — guests.

Let friends and family know in advance that the celebrations will be different this year.

The Alzheimer’s Association has a sample letter for explaining your loved one’s situation simply and respectfully while giving guests guidelines on what to expect and how to respond with grace.

Preparing for the Event

Involve your loved one in the preparations, especially any activities that they enjoy. You might ask them to help with simple cooking tasks or gift wrapping. If they’re unable to participate, invite them to watch you get the house ready. The National Institute on Aging says this may help people living with dementia feel better prepared for the upcoming festivities.

When it comes to decorating, a word of warning: Be cautious with items like plastic fruit and vegetables or other items that might be confused with real food. Blinking lights may also be overstimulating, says the Alzheimer’s Association. Candles, as well as large decorations that could become tripping hazards, should also be avoided.

If your loved one has a favorite food, add it to the day’s menu, even if it’s not normally considered a holiday dish. But go easy on overly rich foods. The Alzheimer’s Society of Canada says they might make people living with dementia feel extra agitated.

Finally, plan events that your loved one can participate in during the day, like looking at photographs and singing their favorite holiday songs. Music can be a powerful tool for helping people with dementia enjoy a greater sense of well-being.

The Big Day

Give your loved one a place to recharge if they feel overwhelmed by all the noise and crowds. Create a schedule in advance to determine which guest will keep them company during their breaks. This ensures you get a chance to catch up with friends and family and enjoy the day’s festivities.

While you’re mingling and merry-making, talk to your family about your caregiving situation. If you feel overwhelmed by the responsibilities or think your loved one may need extra assistance, the holidays could be a good opportunity to discuss engaging the help of an assisted living or memory care community.

Dementia care experts at Sonata Senior Living recommend respite care during the holidays as a short-term strategy for those who may need part-time assistance caring for a loved one.

“The holidays can be especially stressful for families,” said Julie Fernandez, certified dementia care practitioner at Serenades Memory Care by Sonata. “A short break from caregiving provides the extra time people need to cook, clean, hang holiday decorations, prepare the house for guests or simply rest.”

At Sonata Senior Living, our memory care communities are dedicated to helping people living with Alzheimer’s in Florida enjoy the highest levels of independence, dignity and comfort, while giving their friends and family greater peace of mind. To learn more, contact us today →

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