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5 Tips to Enjoy Holidays with People with Dementia

Feb 3, 2024

The holiday season is a time for joy and celebration, but for families with people who have dementia, it can also be a time of stress and uncertainty.  Dementia can greatly impact cognitive functions so it is crucial to establish an environment that meets their specific needs during festive times. We hope each family can find ways to make the holidays enjoyable for everyone. Here are five tips to help you and your loved one with dementia enjoy the holidays:

1. Creating a Calm and Comfortable Environment

The environment plays a crucial role in reducing anxiety, confusion, and discomfort. According to the information from the Hong Kong Alzheimer's Association, changes to the environment can be disorienting and cause increased agitation in people with dementia.

Be aware that noise and distractions may cause anxiety and stress in people with dementia. If possible, keep a part of the house as a quiet space in case your loved one needs a break.

2. Involve them in celebrations

Involve people with dementia in rituals and celebrations is the second strategy for enhancing the holiday experience. Sensory activities can stimulate their senses, provide comfort, and evoke positive memories. In the Health Ming Pao article, Dr Leung explains that "Incorporating sensory activities into holiday celebrations can provide sensory stimulation, which can be enjoyable and calming for individuals with dementia."

Depending on their abilities, let them participate in suitable activities like giving out red packets, putting sweets into the candy box, or making dumplings. Prepare food that they enjoy and also suited for their needs. Some companies in Hong Kong sell soft meal festive food for persons with swallowing difficulties.

3. Maintain the daily routine

A structured and straightforward routine can provide a sense of predictability and security. An article in Common Health states, "Consistency in routine can reduce anxiety and agitation in individuals with dementia, especially during special occasions." Overloading the schedule with too many activities can lead to confusion and distress. Keeping the holiday routine simple and familiar is essential. Plan the activities earlier in the day if your loved ones experience sundown syndromes. Be prepared to modify plans or activities as needed.

4. Communication with friends and family

Inform friends and relatives who do not see your loved ones often about their latest conditions and share the best communication approaches. Remind them to avoid asking questions like ‘Do you remember me?’ or ‘Who am I?’ as these questions might cause embarrassment.

Caring for a loved one with dementia can be emotionally and physically demanding, especially during the holidays. It's important to take care of yourself and seek support from other family members and friends. Remember to set aside time for self-care and relaxation to help you stay healthy during the holiday season.

5. Cherish Family Time 

Find ways to preserve these precious moments with your loved ones, such as capturing photos and videos. Take the opportunity to look at old photos together and reminisce. These activities can help evoke positive memories, facilitate communication, and nurture a sense of connection. According to the information from the National Health Research Institute of Taiwan, by revisiting old photos and objects from the past, we can stimulate the memories of our older adults and create a sense of familiarity, enabling them to reconnect with their past experiences and emotions.

We hope by following these tips, you can help make the holidays enjoyable for both you and your loved one with dementia. Remember to focus on creating meaningful and memorable moments, and don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it. We hope every family can enjoy a holiday season that is filled with love, joy, and connection.

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