The holiday season is filled with comfort and joy and sometimes, a bit of stress … maybe even a lot of stress for families that are impacted by Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia.

Holiday traditions like decorating, gift exchanges, baking favorite cookies and visiting family and friends are fun and exciting but, can also be exhausting and especially overwhelming for those with Alzheimer’s disease and their care partners.

What can be done to have a peaceful and meaningful holiday season while balancing caregiving responsibilities?

For care partners, the holiday season may look different than it once did. Perhaps the person with dementia now becomes agitated in a room with many faces that have become unfamiliar or is no longer able to set the holiday dinner table. These changes can be difficult to accept but, plans and traditions can be adapted to help. In these examples, consider inviting less people and/or staggering the visiting schedule into small groups. Break up tasks into manageable pieces so perhaps the person with dementia can help by just folding the napkins. Making these changes will hopefully avoid frustration and encourage appropriate independence and involvement in the festivities.

When entertaining guests, it’s important to be open and honest about capabilities, especially if it’s been a while since family and friends have seen the person with dementia. Raising awareness about the changes caused by the disease and how those changes may have impacted personality, communication and behavior will better prepare everyone for the visit.

Not only is it important for care partners to be open and honest with friends and family but, it’s also important for care partners to be open and honest with themselves. Being realistic about what can be accomplished, even though that may be different than past holidays, can keep things manageable and avoid frustration, exhaustion and stress. Perhaps this is the time to create new family traditions, like passing down the responsibility of hosting the holiday dinner to another generation of family members.

No matter where you spend the holidays or who you’re spending them with, planning ahead is vital. Take the time to think about how to adapt your holiday traditions, who you need to talk to for help and support and, most importantly, what you need to do for yourself to
make this “the most wonderful time of the year” possible.

If you need assistance in making your holiday plans, please don’t hesitate to call the Alzheimer’s New Jersey Helpline at 888-280-6055. Our trained and caring staff can offer you further advice, tips, and coping strategies.