Celebrating the Holidays With Those With Memory Loss


For many families, the holidays are a chance to re-visit long held traditions. Even if some members of a family have moved hundreds, or thousands, of miles away, the season offers the opportunity to reunite and enjoy familiar activities.

But what happens if a member of the family struggles to remember those traditions?

For as joyous as the holidays are, it can be difficult for those with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, along with their caregivers, when familiar traditions, or even people, go unrecognized.

Here at Prestige Senior Living, we want to help families ensure a great holiday experience when a loved one may be struggling with their memory. Below are some tips to help families navigate what may be a new reality.

Prepare Visitors For Changes

If you’re the primary caregiver for a loved one with memory loss, you’re with them every day and you’ve seen and adjusted to the changes in their behavior or appearance.

However, if you have family or friends coming in for the holidays who haven’t seen that loved one in a while (especially during these pandemic times), even if they’re aware of a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, it may be jarring for them to see the changes in that loved one.

To avoid any surprises or awkwardness, consider sending an email or calling anyone coming to visit updating them on your loved one’s current status to prepare them for changes in that person. It’s also a good idea to offer advice on how to talk to them with empathy and compassion, remaining patient as the person with memory loss asks the same question repeatedly or struggles to keep up with the conversation.

If people can have an idea in advance of what to expect they can prepare accordingly and hopefully it can lead to a better reunion for everyone.

Holiday Engagement

No, we’re not talking about a ring under a tree, we’re referring instead to engaging the person with Alzheimer’s or dementia in holiday activities and traditions. For instance:

-Baking: Holiday treats are a staple of the season, and your loved one perhaps had a favorite recipe for cookies or sweet treats that were their specialty. Get out that favorite recipe and include them in the process, even if it takes a bit longer than usual or the results don’t turn out quite right.

-Christmas carols: Put on some familiar classics and have the family sing along! Music is a great way to connect with people who have cognitive decline, as song lyrics are often something that remains in their memory through the disease.

-Photo albums: Sit down with your loved one and go through old photo albums. Sometimes seeing photos of past holiday seasons and those older photos of loved ones can trigger a response in someone with memory loss. Talk about favorite family traditions and memories as you seek to connect.

Stick to Routines

People living with Alzheimer’s and dementia thrive on routine, which can easily be disrupted by the activities and busyness that often come with the holiday season.

As much as possible, try to keep your loved on their usual schedule when it comes to eating, sleeping and their daily activities. Of course, you want them to participate and enjoy the holidays, but getting too far off track can cause agitation and upset them. Often, they may be more alert and engaged at certain times of day, so work with your family to plan activities accordingly.

As noted above when it comes to talking to family in advance, lay out their daily routines and ask that people respect them.

Know That You Can’t Do It All

Try as you might to prove otherwise, everyone has limits. If you’re caring for a loved with memory loss, and perhaps also hosting the holidays, it puts a lot of strain on you. For all the festivities that come with the season, the shopping, wrapping, decorating, cooking and hosting can cause stress at the best of times. Add in the responsibility of caring for an older loved one with memory loss, and it can quickly become too much.

To that end, don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you’re the primary caregiver and have family coming to town, delegate some of the caregiving responsibilities while you have help around you. Maybe everyone contributes a dish for Christmas dinner so that the cooking isn’t all your responsibility. And maybe not every holiday tradition has to take place if your schedule is already full.

Even amid the holidays, you owe it to yourself to find pockets of time for yourself. Set limits and ask people to honor them.

Prestige is Here To Help

It’s not unusual at this time of year for families to realize that a loved one living with Alzheimer’s or dementia needs a level of care that comes from living in a memory care community.

At Prestige, our team understands the challenges and can work with families on finding a solution with one of our communities. Our award-winning Expressions wellness program is designed to enrich the lives of our residents and bring meaning to everyday activities.

To learn more, contact the community nearest you to book a tour.