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How to Navigate the Holidays with Your Loved One with Dementia 

The holiday season is a time when many families come together to celebrate old traditions and be together.

But for families with relatives suffering from memory loss, the holiday season can pose certain challenges and limitations to make it more overwhelming and stressful at times.

This is why Kensington Place Redwood City hosted a virtual gathering on Dec. 14 with The Institute of Aging called “How to Navigate the Holidays with Your Loved One with Dementia” to educate families on adapting their holidays to include relatives with memory loss.

Our discussion featured industry experts who shared tips on purposeful gift ideas, adapting old traditions to be more inclusive and other ways to enjoy the holiday season with your loved one with dementia.

Considerations for holiday activities and gatherings for family members with dementia or Alzheimer’s

For those living with dementia or Alzheimer’s, it can be easy to be overwhelmed or overstimulated by holiday celebrations.

Dazzling Christmas lights, music playing, and the noises of family gatherings can easily overwhelm or disorient people with memory loss.

Follow these tips to make your holiday gathering and home sensory-friendly for seniors with dementia or Alzheimer’s.

Plan your loved one’s visit ahead of time

Whatever your plans are this holiday season, make sure to plan them in advance based on your loved one’s schedule to make it as convenient for them as possible. 

People with dementia manage their symptoms better by following consistent routines and schedules. If you’re planning on bringing your loved one to your home or visiting their home during the holidays, plan it ahead of time to fit best into their schedule.

Some people with dementia will have worsening symptoms later during the day, called “sundowning” that can be avoided by celebrating earlier in the day, while they’re at their best.

Use fewer decorations

People dealing with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia process stimulation differently, and can be more easily overwhelmed by blinking lights, moving decorations, and other visual distractions.

If possible:

  • Remove any fake food decorations, such as fruit, cookies, or plastic-food decorations
  • Don’t use blinking lights, as they are the most distracting
  • Don’t have animatronic or life sized Christmas decorations that can scare or confuse family members
  • Keep walkways and other paths clutter-free to reduce fall risk

Considering planning a separate visit for your loved one

If your family gatherings are too large to manage for your loved one, consider arranging a separate time to visit your loved one for more one-on-one personal interactions.

By scheduling a separate visit, you can maintain better control over your environment to reduce sound and other distractions so your loved one will be more at ease and receptive to communication.

Simple ways to make memories and spend meaningful time together for relatives with dementia or Alzheimer’s

Sometimes, holiday traditions need to be adapted to be more inclusive for family members who deal with memory loss.

A few suggestions for Holiday activities to engage in with your relative who has dementia include:

  • Listen to holiday music
  • Have them decorate cookies that you’ve baked
  • Look through old photo albums
  • Watch favorite holiday movies
  • Play with fidget toys and other toys
  • Celebrate old family traditions
  • Play games together
  • Give them a massage or brush their hair
  • Have them help you set the dining table
  • Have them help you clean up and wash and dry dishes

Depending on what stage of dementia or Alzheimer’s your loved one is in, they may want to feel more included and useful in helping your party. Giving them small tasks such as decorating cookies or setting up the dining table can give them a sense of purpose and accomplishment.

Holiday gift ideas for relatives with memory loss (dementia or Alzheimer’s disease)

Finding the right presents for relatives can be overwhelming, especially when they are experiencing memory loss. You may feel more pressure to buy them a present they will enjoy and won’t confuse or embarrass them when opening.

Follow these tips for finding the right holiday gift ideas for family members with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease:

  • Sudoku and other easy, fun brain games and puzzles (early to mid stages)
  • Fidget toys and fidget spinners (early to mid stages)
  • Stuffed animals and dolls (middle to late stages) 
  • Weight blankets under 5 pounds (all stages)
  • Amazon Echo and other voice-assisted devices (early to mid stages)
  • Large picture books (early to mid stages)
  • Handmade items, such as scarves and blankets (all stages)
  • Motion activated lights for home (all stages)
  • Framed family portrait. Avoid digital photo frames. (all stages)
  • Comfortable clothes and pajamas (all stages)

How The Kensington White Plains devotes care to benefit seniors and family caregivers

Kensington Place is proud to offer assistance to both caregivers and their loved ones dealing with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Our community was originally created to build assisted living and memory care communities that we’d want our own parents to live in.

At Kensington Place Redwood City, we extend our Promise to “love and care for your family as we do our own.”

For caregivers, please check out Kensington Konnect, an informative hub of resources for caregivers, seniors, and their families to enjoy. We maintain an active blog page filled with new and educational articles to educate and inform our residents and their families about senior-related health issues.

Join The Kensington White Plains, your partners in caregiving

Kensington Place Redwood City is a premier memory care community located in Northern California.

Our community features an active schedule of life enrichment classes, as well as on-site rehabilitation services, and an all-day dining room.

Kensington Place offers enhanced memory care, allowing us to support those with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, and others with extremely high-care needs, such as providing diabetes management, medication administration, and accommodating special dietary restrictions.

Contact us today to learn more about our available suites and rooms, and open career opportunities!

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