9 Ideas for Managing Memory Loss During the Holidays

For most, the holiday season is a time they look forward to with excitement and nostalgia. However, if you are caring for a loved one with memory loss from Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, this time of year may cause extra stress and anxiety. How will you manage the busy holiday schedule on top of your caregiving responsibilities? How can you make traditions meaningful for your loved one?

These concerns and many others can easily distress the thoughtful caregiver. Fortunately, our senior living expert and Lifestyle Specialist, Diane Reier from Aspired Living® of Prospect Heights in Prospect Heights, IL, has several suggestions for making this season more manageable for you and your loved one with memory loss.

“The greatest piece of advice I can give to caregivers approaching the holidays is to readjust your expectations,” shares Diane. “Understand that traditions may be a bit different this year, that you might not be able to accomplish everything on your own or that time spent with your loved one may focus more on care than relaxation. As your loved one’s memory loss progresses, traditions will change. But if you approach the holidays with a positive mindset, you can still make sure these times are meaningful for both of you.”

Ideas for Keeping Calm & Making Merry

If you could use some help preparing your loved one and the rest of your family for the holidays, read on for tips and inspiration for managing the season simply.

Managing the Guests

1. Let visitors know of changes in your loved one – For family members and visitors who haven’t seen your loved one in a while, it helps to prepare them on what changes to expect in their behavior or abilities. Call distant visitors a week beforehand to explain your loved one’s memory loss and share a few tips on interacting with them. Your guests will appreciate the notice.

2. Limit the number of guests – A large, loud crowd of people can be overwhelming for the healthiest person, let alone someone with Alzheimer’s. Try to limit the number of visitors in your home. Instead of having everyone over for a large party, hold a few smaller gatherings or dinners with a few guests at a time.

Managing Memory Loss

3. Adapt your traditions – Maintaining holiday traditions can be extremely important. However, your loved one’s memory loss might make certain activities difficult. For example, if your loved one suffers from sundowning, or disorientation and irritability in the evening, a big, Christmas dinner could be challenging. Instead, try holding the holiday meal at noon.

4. Include your loved one – Help your loved one feel like they are still a part of traditions by finding simple, yet meaningful, ways for them to be involved. Have them help decorate by handing you items as you hang them up, or give them the job of opening cards and hanging them on the fridge. Let them pick out the holiday music that you play.

5. Decorate carefully – Beware of how holiday decorations might affect your loved one. Their memory loss makes processing sensory information difficult, so going overboard on bright lights or large, shiny decorations could be unpleasant to them. Tone down decorations to more subtle, simpler objects. Also be careful to avoid lighting candles and other open flames.

6. Maintain a routine – Routines are a wonderful tool for caring for a loved one with memory loss. Yet, the holidays often threaten daily routines with extra festivities and tasks, events and visitors. As much as you are able, make your loved one’s routine the priority and schedule extra holiday events around their stabilizing activities. Keep meals and bedtimes the same, only go out during the times they are at their best, etc.

7. Adapt gift-giving – Ask friends and family members to give your loved one useful and meaningful gifts. Offer suggestions of gifts that might make things easier, such as large-print books or a new digital clock or watch. Items that are pleasing to the senses – a fuzzy robe or socks, scented lotion, a soft blanket – can provide comfort to someone with memory loss. Meaning gifts such as photo albums, copies of their favorite movies or framed pictures are other good ideas.

Managing Yourself

8. Know your limits – and stick to them! – Understand that while you’re caring for your loved one, you may not be able to do everything you did before. Explain this to your family members and delegate tasks as necessary. Maybe your brother’s family can host dinner this year. Ask your spouse to take care of the shopping for a few weeks so you have more time to prepare for other activities. Know how much you can reasonably manage and don’t feel guilty for doing less than you might want to.

9. Take care of yourself – On the same note, take care of your physical and mental health during the holidays. Allow yourself to take breaks where you can relax and recharge. Perhaps place some not-so-subtle hints about how nice it would be to receive a gift of respite care once the holidays are over!

You can find more tips for managing the holidays from the experts at the Mayo Clinic and the Alzheimer’s Association.

Make the Most of Your Holidays Together

“We hope that these tips will help you and your loved one with memory loss make the most out of the holiday season,” shares Diane. “While holiday traditions and gatherings are part of what makes this the most wonderful time of the year, it’s important to remember that the time you spend together is what really matters.

“If you could use some more advice on how to manage your loved one’s memory loss during the holidays, or would like more ideas on how to make activities or gifts meaningful, contact Aspired Living® of Prospect Heights today. We’ll be happy to help you find ways to make this season merry and bright for you and your loved one!”

We Would Love to Hear from You!

If you have comments or questions about our blog, we’d love to hear from you. We also welcome you to share any caregiving insights or experiences in our comments section.

Live Well. Age Well. Be Well.

Offering Independent, Assisted Living and A Knew Day Memory Support, Aspired Living® of Prospect Heights is a distinctive senior living community designed to offer seniors residing in the Chicago Northwest Suburbs area a fresh alternative to “typical” senior living communities.

Aspired Living® of Prospect Heights provides residents with the ideal balance of personalized support, dignified privacy and enhanced independence complemented by luxurious amenities and our life-enriching, award-winning VIVA!SM programming by Pathway to Living®.

Managed by Pathway to Living®, an innovator in senior living, Aspired Living® offers the choice of a private studio or a one- or two-bedroom apartment and the beauty of a brand new community, stunningly appointed and decorated for unsurpassed comfort and style by the award-winning senior living design firm, Thoma-Holec Design, Inc.

For more information, please call Diane at 847-243-6920.

Disclaimer: The articles and tip sheets on this website are offered by Aspired Living® of Prospect Heights for general informational and educational purposes and do not constitute legal or medical advice. For legal or medical advice, please contact your attorney or physician.