Tips for Navigating the Holidays When a Loved One Has Alzheimer’s

The holidays can be a little anxiety-inducing for everyone. Whether it’s stressful interactions with family, trying to cater the meal to everyone’s allergies or dietary choices, experiencing travel delays and disruptions, or navigating familial discord, there’s a lot to throw a wrench into the ‘holiday spirit.’ Alzheimer’s carries with it its own concerns this time of year. If you’re wondering how to help your loved one with Alzheimer’s have an enjoyable holiday, the Baylor College of Medicine’s Alzheimer’s Disease and Memory Disorders Center recently shared the following pointers.

  • Adjust your expectations. Changes in environment and routine, coupled with the sensory overload of a holiday gathering, can lead to stress. If this happens, it’s recommended that you and your loved one take a time out in a quieter area of the home. You can also sit outside or take a walk together.
  • Don’t expect your loved one to be a social butterfly. To keep them at ease, find a quiet spot away from the action where relatives can meander over at their own pace, one at a time. Individual interactions can be easier to handle.
  • Don’t ask your loved one if they recognize family members. Testing their memory may fluster them, so avoid asking who a particular person is. Instead, introduce family members as they come over.
  • Let your loved one be a part of the festivities. Giving them a role to play in the preparation can be helpful. It could be something as simple as setting the table or wrapping gifts. Don’t criticize their performance if they struggle a bit.
  • Jog their longer-term memory. Memories from childhood or early adulthood are usually stronger in those with Alzheimer’s. Try to include Christmas songs and traditions from their youth or ask them about their favorite holiday memories as a child.
  • Keep to routines if possible. Is there something your loved one does every day that can still be followed in a different environment, like a daily nap or walk? Make time for it.
  • Keep your own emotions in check. Though things can be stressful for caregivers, try to avoid transferring those emotions to your loved one. If you need a break or some help, ask another family member so you can take a breather.

The holiday season can be a wonderful time filled with family and friends. Bearing in mind the needs of your loved one with Alzheimer’s can help them enjoy the holidays in their own way, as well. To read more about holiday Alzheimer’s tips, visit Baylor College of Medicine’s website.

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