How to Handle the Holidays When Mom or Dad Has Dementia

People with dementia live in the present.

Holidays are memory days.  But not for people with dementia.

“Do you remember the year the tree fell over…when the cousins stayed for all eight days…when Santa forgot to eat the cookies and the kids cried…”

Holidays are a tapestry woven with memory.  Now your mom or dad or relative has lost those memories and you are about to spend longer periods of time with them.

Here are some tips to help you, whether you will be with this person for one hour or off and on for several days.

1. Be patient and smile. You will have to draw on the love you have always had for this person to get through the hours.  You will have to repeat yourself.  You will have to clarify things and as you do realize that the clarification might not mean a thing.  But the gentleness of your voice or the kindness of your posture as you lean toward this person explaining, will mean something.

2. Plan ahead, consider what your loved one can tolerate. What you do during the holidays with your loved one who suffers from dementia depends on the extent of the illness.  Last year we took my mother to our favorite Christmas Eve bistro in her wheelchair.  Never again.  She was unhappy, the place was too noisy and she immediately wanted to go back to her senior living facility.  So weigh your options.  Maybe it’s better to keep your loved one in her comfortable place.  Stay with her for a number of hours, and then go out and celebrate on your own.

3. Bring gifts. Gifts should be tactile or arouse the senses.  Holiday foods and sweets are always a good choice, if your loved one can tolerate them.  Lotions with citrus scents, warm and soft shawls, socks or sweaters are other good ideas.  The elderly are almost always cold.  And don’t forget to gift the caregivers who take care of your loved one.

4. Create your own memories.  Even though your mother, father, uncle will not remember that you were there bringing gifts and loving them, hold this memory in your own heart.  The winter holidays, no matter if you are a person of a certain faith or not, are times for introspection and reflection.  Know that your acts of love and kindness toward this person are appreciated IN THE MOMENT.  You are making a difference for that person IN THE MOMENT.  And that’s a memory that you can be proud of–you made a difference for someone with dementia.

Thank you to Nursehome71 photostream

3 thoughts on “How to Handle the Holidays When Mom or Dad Has Dementia

  1. Pingback: Assisted Living Today’s Week in Review - Assisted Living Today

  2. Thanks for the pingback and thanks for all you do to help the elderly and their caregivers.

  3. Pingback: An Alzheimer’s Christmas « Weekly Update on Aging

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