If you listen to the radio in December, you’re likely to hear this is “the most wonderful time of the year.” While the holidays can be a joyous time spent with our families, they also can be a difficult and stressful time for many people. For adults living with dementia and their family caregivers, the changes that come with the holidays – decorations, lights, family gatherings, and music – can cause added confusion and frustration.

Ahead of the hustle and bustle of gatherings with family, time spent preparing yourself, your loved one with dementia, your home, and visitors, will go a long way toward an enjoyable holiday season.

Prioritizing your to-dos

One way to help you manage a long list of to-dos is to categorize each item on your list. Ask yourself, “Is it a must-do, a nice-to-do, or a too-much-to-do?” Prioritize those things you feel you have to do. Then consider the items you noted as nice-to-do items. Are there any that won’t add stress? Determining what you need to do can help you set a manageable plan to get ready for the holidays. Don’t forget to ask for help.

Helping your loved one adjust

So many elements of the holidays change the familiar surroundings and daily routines for people with dementia. To help your loved one with dementia adjust to changes during the holidays:

  • Plan small gatherings and aim to keep them low-key and relaxed.
  • Before a family gathering, sit down with your loved one and look through photos of family members and friends who will be at a family gathering.

Preparing your home

Trees, garland, and lights are just some of the items you might use to decorate your home for the holidays. There are ways to add festive decorations to your home without causing too much disruption for your loved one.

  • Keep it simple. Too much clutter can increase confusion. Consider keeping some of your decorations stored away.
  • Use soft lights. Blinking or twinkling lights can be disorienting and may increase anxiety.
  • If you have decorations that include sound, keep the sound and movements turned off.
  • Create a quiet space, such as a bedroom or office, where your loved one can rest and recharge. This would be a good place for one or two visitors to come to talk or do simple activities with your loved one.

Briefing visitors

Since it may have been some time since your family members or friends have seen your loved one who has dementia, take time to prepare them for changes in their condition. Offer suggestions for ways they can meaningfully connect with him or her. Some ideas include:

  • Reminiscing on past holidays or family traditions.
  • Involving your loved one in conversations so they don’t feel left out.
  • Not quizzing them on what he or she may or may not remember.

With a bit of planning, the holidays can be a joyous time for you, your loved one with dementia, and the rest of your family. Simplify celebrations and plan ahead to minimize stress.