Have a Loved One with Dementia? Some Tips for a Memorable Holiday Gathering
Gatherings around the holidays can be a wonderful way to bring family and friends together, but they pose special challenges to those who have a family member with dementia. Here are a few tips that may help you and your family have a happy and memorable time.
1. Don’t expect the holiday to be “just like the ones you used to know”. It may be difficult for your loved one to continue the role that he or she used to play at the holidays, and certain traditions may no longer have the same meaning. Assess in advance what adjustments you may want to make in your rituals so that your loved one is not under pressure to do things that are no longer easy or possible.
2. Consider the timing of the gathering. Plan the main meal at a time when your loved one is alert and able to participate.
3. A shorter, successful reunion may be better than a longer one. Plan for the possibility that your loved one may need to rest during the gathering, or leave earlier than others.
4. Identify tasks that your loved one can do so that he or she will feel involved and useful. Part of the experience is preparing for the gathering. Help to make sure that everyone can contribute to the preparations.
5. It can be stressful to be in a group when you cannot remember names. If you think this will be a problem, make name tags with a seasonal theme and have everyone wear them.
6. Think of ways to encourage conversation. Picture albums can be used to start conversations and to reminisce about shared times. If your loved one has specific interests, have books or catalogues on hand that will allow people to talk about these interests.
7. Are there certain songs that your family associates with the holiday? If so, make sure you sing them! Most people retain their musical memories even when other memory fades. Indeed, the music may help spark other memories that can be shared.
8. Remain flexible! Like most gatherings, not every aspect of the day is likely to go as planned, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t still be a day with meaning and lasting memories.