Hosting the Holidays When a Loved One Has Alzheimer’s

The holiday season is a time for love, warmth, and togetherness. For families with a loved one diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, it can also bring unique challenges. With a little preparation, understanding, and patience, it’s entirely possible to create a joyous and memorable holiday experience. Here are some essential tips to make the most out of your time together.

Begin by setting realistic expectations for yourself and for others. Remember that Alzheimer’s patients can experience good and bad days, and symptoms can vary in intensity. They might not remember certain traditions or even recognize family members. It’s essential to be patient, avoid taking things personally, and focus on the present moment. Appreciate the time you have together.

Keep it simple. While it’s tempting to stick with every holiday practice, it might be beneficial to simplify routines so your loved one doesn’t get overwhelmed. This might mean having a smaller gathering, reducing decorations, or choosing a quieter venue. Pay attention to signs of agitation or stress and be ready to adapt plans as necessary.

Familiarity can be comforting for those with Alzheimer’s. If your relative lives in a care facility, consider bringing some cherished holiday items or decorations from their home. Alternatively, if they are visiting your house, create a dedicated space for them with familiar items. Soft lighting, familiar music, and a calm ambiance can help reduce anxiety.

Whether it’s baking cookies, decorating the tree, or listening to festive music, find ways to include your loved one. However, always gauge their comfort level and be prepared to modify or skip activities if they cause distress. Your loved one may enjoy simply sitting back and observing the festivities.

Alzheimer’s is nothing to be ashamed of. Share your relative’s condition with your guests ahead of time. Brief them on potential behaviors and how best to communicate. Simple strategies, like using short sentences, avoiding correcting or arguing, and maintaining eye contact can improve interactions.

Caregivers should remember to take time for themselves. Spending time with a loved one with Alzheimer’s can be emotionally draining. Acknowledge your feelings and take breaks when needed. Enlist the help of other family members or consider hiring a temporary caregiver to provide respite.

Alzheimer’s can change many things, but it doesn’t change the love you have for your relative—or the love they have for you, even if they can’t always express it. Focus on the emotions and the bond you share and try to make the most of every moment.

The holidays with an Alzheimer’s patient might look different, but with patience, understanding, and a flexible approach, they can still be filled with warmth, love, and cherished moments.

This advice is not intended to replace the advice of your healthcare provider.