Enjoying the Holidays through Dementia or Alzheimer's

Published: December 22, 2020




While many older adults with Alzheimer's or dementia have a desire to participate in holiday festivities, this time of year can also be extremely overwhelming. Added stress and over-stimulation from activities can lead to confusion, agitation, fidgeting, unpredictable behavior or mood swings.

Many families discover that simple modifications to beloved family traditions can create an enjoyable atmosphere for people with dementia. Here are a few helpful tips:


One of the easiest ways to ensure a frustration-free gathering is to have open, precise communication with family members to set expectations. Remember that dementia is a progressive disease that gets worse over time. Consider the length of time since visitors last saw your loved one. To avoid shocking family or friends, it is a good idea to update them on your older adult’s current condition before they come over. Be sure to offer help to family members who may not know what to say and do.  Be sure to give your family members enough time to absorb this information and ask questions before your gathering.

Consider their current daily routine when planning annual traditions. Deviations from familiar routines may cause stress, which can trigger challenging behavior. Determine easy modifications to help older adults participate and enjoy festivities, such as maintaining mealtime schedules or factoring in much-needed rest. To prevent older adults from becoming overtired or overstimulated, it’s important to pace activities and take frequent breaks.

Opt for decorations that are chosen with care. While the holidays are filled with great beauty and eye-catching decorations, you don't want your loved one with dementia to become overstimulated, which can cause agitation.

Seniors with dementia may enjoy holiday visitors as long as the visit isn’t overwhelming. However, remember that simply being included in the festivities brings joy and helps seniors with dementia enjoy the season.