Holidays are opportunities to share time with the people you love. Try to make these celebrations easy on yourself and the person with Alzheimer’s disease so that you may concentrate on enjoying your time together. Here are some suggestions:
Adjust Your Expectations
- Call a face-to-face meeting or arrange for a telephone conference call with family and friends to discuss holiday celebrations. Make sure that everyone understands your caregiving situation and have realistic expectations about you can and cannot do. No one can expect you to maintain every holiday tradition or event.
- Give yourself permission to do only what you can reasonably manage. If you’ve always had a big holiday party, consider inviting fewer people for a simple meal. Or, have a potluck dinner or ask others to host the holiday at their home.
- Consider celebrating holidays over a lunch or brunch, rather than an evening meal, to work around the evening confusion or sundowning that sometimes affects some people with Alzheimer’s.
- Write a letter or an e-mail to others letting them know about your situation.
Involve the Person With Dementia in Holiday Activities
- Involve the person in safe, manageable holiday activities. He or she could help you prepare food, wrap packages, hand you decorations or set the table. Avoid using candies, artificial fruits, vegetables or other edibles as decorations. Blinking lights may confuse or scare the person.
- Maintain the person’s normal routine so that holiday preparations don’t become disruptive or confusing. Taking on too many tasks can wear on you and the person.
- Build on past traditions and memories. Your family member may find comfort in singing old holiday songs, for example. But also experiment with new holiday traditions, such as renting seasonal videos.
Gift ideas for the person with dementia
- Choose the best type of gift for your loved one based on his or her interests and abilities. In the early stages, a person may appreciate tickets to a show or musical, or simple and familiar games like dominos or bingo. Items that help with memory like magnetic refrigerator pads and calendars may be good gifts.
- When a person is in the middle or later stages of Alzheimer's, you may have to adapt your gift giving. Encourage people to buy useful gifts for the person such as: a wandering response service with identification bracelet; comfortable, easy-to-remove clothing; audiotapes of favorite music or books; videos of favorite movies, animals, sports team or travel destination; subscriptions to magazines that reflect hobbies, such as a gardening or cars; warm blankets or quilts; photo albums; scented lotion.
- Advise people not to give gifts such as dangerous tools or instruments, utensils, challenging board games, complicated electronic equipment or pets.
- Depending on his or her abilities, get the person involved in giving gifts. For example, someone who once enjoyed cooking may enjoy baking cookies and packing them in tins or boxes. Or, you may want to buy the gift and allow the person to wrap it.
Caring for yourself
- When friends or family members ask what you want for a gift, suggest a gift certificate or gift card to a favorite restaurant, store or spa. Or you can suggest something that will help you out as you care for your loved one, like a cleaning or household chore service.
- Do your best to manage holiday stress and caregiving stress (not to mention the family stress that can come with the holidays). If you find it too overwhelming and need support, call the Alzheimer's Association to talk with one of our care consultants at 1.800.272.3900. You can also chat with others who know what you are going through on our message boards.