Making Holidays Successful for Dementia Patients and Families

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When you love someone who is living with Dementia, the holidays can be stressful and difficult to navigate, both on a personal level and a family level.

The presence of dementia will change the holidays, but at Juniper Communities we know there are steps you can take to make it an enjoyable celebration for all.

“To help cope with the changing family dynamics and still celebrate special times, blend familiar traditions and routines with new activities that adjust to your loved one’s current needs,” advises Diane Byrne, Vice President of Program, Development, Training & Operational Oversight. “Being realistic about your loved one’s challenges and limitations can help make the season joyful for everyone.”

Here are a few ways you can adapt your holiday celebration to make it safe and enjoyable for all:

Manage your expectations. Dementia brings with it a new normal, so it’s important to adjust to how things will be this holiday season (and those to come) — instead of how things once were. Try to put yourself in your loved one’s shoes and understand that this is probably not easy for them either.

Keep your gathering small, so as not to confuse your loved one with unfamiliar faces and too much noise or commotion. It may be helpful to arrange for a place where your loved one can rest or retreat if they become overstimulated.

Play familiar music.  Music stirs memory and emotions. A person with Alzheimer’s disease is likely to take comfort in familiar tunes such as classic Christmas carols, which may bring up pleasant memories of joyous holiday celebrations from the past.

Reminisce.  Short-term memory is usually the most affected with Alzheimer’s and dementia patients.  Ask your loved one about their childhood and younger days. But, give the person time to respond and don’t interrupt or finish sentences unless he or she asks for help finding a word or finishing a sentence.

Above all, try to stay positive. Keeping a cheerful and positive outlook can help set the tone for the entire experience and help keep you and others calm in the face of frustrations. Focusing on the positive will not only help you cope and celebrate, but also encourage your loved one to enjoy a special time and feel at peace.

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