Learn & Grow/Alzheimer's and Dementia/How to Host a Holiday Gathering with a Loved One Who Has Dementia
Alzheimer's and Dementia

How to Host a Holiday Gathering with a Loved One Who Has Dementia

If you’re in charge of hosting your family’s holiday gathering this year, you might be feeling a lot of pressure to throw the perfect party. There’s so many things to consider: the food to serve, which games to play and who to invite. 

If you have a loved one with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, you may also be wondering how to make sure they feel included in the festivities, too, which is a challenge in and of itself.

Fortunately, there are a few great ways to do this that are easy to implement. Here are a few tips on how to host a holiday gathering with a loved one who has dementia.  

Set Realistic Expectations

Although you may want to host an extravagant holiday party, it’s important to set realistic expectations.  For example, you want to be aware of their current condition. Are they physically and mentally able to join in the festivities? In what capacity? You may need to reschedule holiday activities for earlier in the day when your loved one is more alert or in a better mood. 

How to set realistic expectations: 

  • Be aware of your loved one’s current health conditions
  • Pre-plan for memory loss symptoms or experiences and have strategies in place to manage them
  • Keep holiday gatherings small and intimate

It’s important to inform family and friends of your loved one’s current status too, especially if they haven’t seen your loved one for a while. 

Inform visiting family and friends of any of the following changes in your loved one:

  • Behavior shifts 
  • Mood swings 
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Incontinence issues

Keeping family and friends abreast of these symptoms will minimize feelings of shock, resentment or dismay at seeing changes in your loved one’s current condition. 

Limit Visitors

Another part of setting expectations is limiting the number of family members and friends who will be attending your gathering. Small, intimate gatherings help your loved one feel less overwhelmed. If you have a large family, consider hosting multiple small parties so all family members can get one-on-one time with your loved one. 

Involve Loved Ones in Activities

Just because you have to manage expectations doesn’t mean you and your loved one can’t have fun during the holidays. Involve them in simple tasks so they feel included. The following are popular holiday activities for older adults with dementia. 

  • Helping with baking or cooking (depending on ability)
  • Decorating
  • Arts and crafts 
  • Singing classic holidays songs
  • Watching favorite holiday movies

To help older adults feel less overwhelmed during these activities, minimize the number of steps they need to take to complete a task. Or make them in charge of one stage of the task. For example, while baking, put them in charge of only mixing or decorating the final outcome.

Including younger children in these activities is a wonderful opportunity for grandkids and grandparents to bond together, too. Involving the whole family in activities increases feelings of holiday cheer!   

Create a Place of Rest 

For older adults with dementia, interacting with too many people or experiencing loud noises can mentally and emotionally drain them. When your loved one seems tired or their mood is shifting, encourage them to take a nap or enjoy a break in a quiet room set aside for them. Once they rest and recharge, they may be ready to join the festivities again.   

Connect and Validate

The holidays are a perfect time to connect with older adults, especially if you don’t get to see them often. During the holidays, have quiet one-on-one time with your loved one. If they have concerns or complaints, don’t take them personally. Be a sympathetic ear and validate their feelings. Taking time to listen to your loved one will help strengthen your bond. 

Celebrate the Holidays With Your Loved One at Oak Trace

If you are researching memory care options for your loved one, come and see what life is like at Oak Trace. We offer a diverse range of personalized memory care services. Whatever your loved one’s health needs, our goal is to create a secure and fulfilling life for them to enjoy.

Book a tour of our community to meet our highly rated, skilled care team and learn more about our exclusive amenitiesContact us to learn more.   

Related Stories