Holidays With Memory Loss

4 Tips for Sharing Holiday Pleasures
holidays-with-dementia-parent

The holidays can be a busy time of year for all of us, and the stress is magnified for dementia caregivers. Despite all the hustle and bustle, you can enjoy good holiday moments with a person with dementia -- it just takes a bit of thoughtfulness and patience. Here are some easy ideas for joyful times you can cherish together during this holiday season:

  • Share a favorite holiday dish or dessert together, at a separate time and place from the main meal. Take a quiet moment simply to enjoy and reminisce about the memories the tastes conjure up.
  • Listen to or sing a favorite holiday song together. Music can still elicit responses from those in the late stages of dementia, even when the person is no longer talking.
  • Look at old photographs of past holiday events. Pick photos that show significant objects or places, like a Christmas tree or a church your loved one used to visit, rather than photos of people only. This way, the person won't feel pressured if she doesn't remember who's in the photos.
  • The smells of the holidays are some of the best of the year. Favorites might include peppermint, pine, cinnamon, and ginger. Share a short activity that incorporates one of these scents, such as rolling balls of gingerbread cookie dough to bake (and eat!).

People with dementia live in the moment, not in the past. This is the gift they give to us. Take this gift and find a way to share some of the joy of the present. Even though your loved one might not remember it later, you will -- and the feelings of happiness will stay with both of you long after the moment is over.


12 months ago, said...

dsep and commenter: Join our Alzheimer's Stage Group, it is a wonderful forum of people who have dealt with problems like Christmas with dementia and will have ideas.


12 months ago, said...

I really can't relate to any those comments as being very helpful at this stage


about 1 year ago, said...

My mother's dementia is nothing like you explain! Very often, she lives in the past! She is 90 years old, but she thinks her parents are alive and her kids are infants! We came to America 27 years ago, but she keeps asking me to take her home (which means back in her original country)! She wants me to take her to her parents and her sisters. She doesn't see this house as her own home, even though she chose this house for purchase. Often, she recognizes us as her family, but still is asking to take her to her family! I tried to play familiar music for her, but it's all annoying noise to her which agitated her. I also tried to entertain her with her old photo albums, but it's only good for few minutes until she loses focus. When my brother, her only son and her most favorite child, comes with his family to visit, it's just too much for her and the extra noise agitates her. I really wish there was something that would give her comfort, but it seems that nothing helps!


almost 3 years ago, said...

My parent's wedding took place on Christmas Day 1943, when my Marine Father was home on leave . He passed away 3 months ago at age 93. For a holiday that meant so much to them & my brother & I, my Mother has no recollection of it & the rich, loving life they had or created for us. She does want to know who her husband is, but doesn't recognize him in pictures. She always says that her brain doesn't work right anymore. That moment she's living in, we are understanding it more & making more of it.


almost 3 years ago, said...

I like how Monica calls living in the moment a gift! It is so true, we are so busy thinking ahead on everything coming up and other stresses in our life, we forget that for those older than us, especially those with dementia, work at 33-1/3 rpm rather than 78 rpm, for those of us old enough to know the old vinyl (and wax) record speeds!


almost 3 years ago, said...

Living in the moment.


almost 3 years ago, said...

Last night a group of 13-18 year olds from my Stake (LDS), came to the Assisted Living where Dad lives to sing Christmas Carols for them. They spent about half an hour there and brought a good amount of cheer to the residents. At the end, several of the Young Men and Women and a couple of the leaders went around and shook everyone's hand and wished them Merry Christmas!


almost 3 years ago, said...

It seems in my husband's Memory Unit that Christmas carols and activities are depressing the residents, they just want Christmas to be over! Some of them have families too far away to come and visit. I'm trying myself to inject some cheer, have assured them I'll be with them on Christmas Day, but I need some help to persuade them to enjoy what is available and there are so many activities, visiting choirs, children's visits.