Planning Holiday Celebrations When a Senior has Dementia
If you are the family caregiver for a loved one living with Alzheimer’s disease, holiday planning requires a little extra thought. Parties in your home can be especially challenging.
But that doesn’t mean you should skip hosting a holiday celebration altogether.
Instead, learning how to plan a safe holiday gathering is the key.
Tips for Hosting a Holiday Gathering when your Loved One has Dementia
Explaining the situation to your guests is important. And details like timing of the party and creating a “safe space” for your loved one are also vital. The following suggestions can help make your holiday party go smoothly.
Explain the situation to your guests ahead of time.
As you receive RSVPs from guests, explain the situation to those who will be attending. While Alzheimer’s awareness has increased in recent years, many people still think the only symptoms of the disease are being forgetful and getting lost easily. It’s important for everyone to be aware of other potential issues.
This can be accomplished with an email or note that includes a quick sentence or two about the disease, like the example below:
“We are looking forward to seeing you at our holiday party! Since we’ve last spent time together, my father is now living with us. Dad has Alzheimer’s. It can cause him to behavior unusually or forget people’s names—even longtime friends and family members. Please don’t be offended. The disease is at fault, not him.
Also know that the disease makes daily life more difficult for him. Crowds and noise can be tough. So he might visit with guests for a while, and then rest in his room the remainder of the evening.”
Additionally, encourage guests to talk to their children about Alzheimer’s. The bottom line is that it is kinder to everyone involved if guests aren’t surprised on the day of the event. This makes it easier and less stressful for everyone to recognize the condition and be more understanding of the situation.
Create a peaceful space for a party timeout.
For people who have Alzheimer’s, any change in routine can be difficult. This includes the party atmosphere, such as loud noises, confusion, and an influx of people. These can create agitation and possibly even lead to attempts to wander.
Prepare for this by creating a place for your loved one to take a quiet break if need. Consider enlisting a few friends or family members—those who understand the disease and common behaviors—to keep your loved one company during the event.
Before the party, have CDs or a playlist of soothing music ready to go. If your loved one tolerates headphones, listening to music with headphones might help to block out background noise.
If any of the party guests are close with your family member, they might enjoy spending one-on-one time with them during the party. This can also help your loved one feel calmer.
Pay attention to timing and details.
Most people with Alzheimer’s disease have times of day that are better and worse for them. Take that into consideration as you plan your holiday gathering.
If possible, schedule your event for a time of day when your loved one is typically at their best. A brunch might be better than a cocktail party if your family member suffers from sundowning syndrome. Or, an evening dessert bar may be a good fit if the early part of the day is most challenging for them.
Visit Sunrise during the Holidays
The holidays are a great time of year to visit a Sunrise Senior Living community! From the seasonal foods to fun, festive activities, you are sure to enjoy spending a few hours with us. Sunrise Senior Living’s memory care services create a safe and stimulating environment for those with Alzheimer’s. Call the community nearest you to set up a time today.