Happy Holidays and Dementia

Posted by Deborah Bier, PhD on November 13, 2017 at 8:00 AM

When there is dementia in the family, we encounter new challenges with holiday gatherings. Dad wants to tell his World War II story many times over Christmas dinner. Mom gets overheated from the cheerful fire in the fireplace and removes her shirt. 


Where you had hoped for smiles, hugs and happy chatter, instead there are shouts, tears and toileting accidents.

With the right approach, everyone can enjoy the holidays, especially the person with dementia. Keep these three important ideas in mind:

  1. Be Flexible. Holiday traditions are important, but you need to adapt them to fit the abilities of the person with dementia. If you want to cherish time with all your loved ones, you will need to create new traditions or revamp old ones. Adapt an attitude of "We're going to try something new this year.”
  2. Be Together. Although there may be some bumps in the road, focus on enjoying the best of one another, instead of your conflicts. There is real joy when loved ones can experience the holidays with family and friends.
  3. Put on a Happy Face. People with dementia are extremely susceptible to others' emotions and react powerfully to them. They may swiftly act out family tensions through challenging behavior. Make sure your body language is relaxed and upbeat. Take all disagreements out of sight and earshot.

The skills needed to interact successfully with someone with dementia are specialized, yet straightforward and effective. They make a real difference every day in everyone’s quality of life by helping people with dementia function at their best. Best care practices are one of the greatest gifts a person with dementia can receive.

To learn more about this topic, watch our video: Creating a Joyous Holiday for an Individual With Dementia


Topics: Aging, Caregiving, Alzheimer's and Dementia

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