Holidays are best spent with loved ones. Whether it’s Mother’s Day, Thanksgiving, or New Year’s Day, celebrating the most special dates on the calendar with people dear to you is a way to create good memories and strengthen relationship bonds.
For families with a relative living with dementia, it can be quite challenging to hold holiday activities because of things to consider. You may also need to exclude some of the event itineraries so that your loved dementia can participate in the activities.
10 Ways to Adapt Holiday Activities for Patients With Dementia
Here are some tips to make holiday gatherings successful and unforgettable for a loved one with dementia.
1. Host an intimate gathering
As much as everyone likes a big celebration, consider how your loved one will react around a crowd. If their dementia symptoms are severe, the noise from a large number of people can trigger behavioral symptoms, such as agitation and anxiety. It's best to host an intimate family event with close relatives and friends.
If their symptoms are at an early stage, they may feel fine surrounded by many people. In general, you must contemplate your loved one's possible responses in a social setting before deciding the number of guests.
2. Ask for suggestions and preferences
Involve your loved one in the planning process by asking for their opinions. Asking them what activities they prefer gives you an idea of the range of activities that interests them and ensures they can join and socialize during the event. It also gives them something to look forward to. You can also get their thoughts or feedback about trying new activities.
3. Remind your loved one of the event details
Remember to remind your loved one of the details a day before the event. Restate to them the location, start time of the event, name of the participants, and more so that they can prepare themselves. It avoids confusion and helps set their expectation that the following day is unlike their usual schedule and routine.
4. Introduce the guest to your loved one before the event
Organize a short get-to-know video call with all the guests so that your loved one can familiarize the faces of other event participants. They may have relatives they haven't seen for years joining the celebration. Doing a virtual meet and greet helps build rapport and ensures that during the event, your loved one is comfortable enough to be able to socialize.
5. Avoid drastic deviations in your loved one’s routine
Remember that a daily structure is crucial for people living with dementia for their day to go smoothly. In some cases where they encounter unpredictable situations, they become agitated and restless. To maintain familiarity with the routine, incorporate as much of their schedule into the event as possible.
For example, if they love to cook in the morning, only order the main course from the restaurant and make the appetizers and desserts at home with them. If part of their afternoon routine is having tea with friends, an event with the same theme is better. Avoid making too many changes that can break their daily structure.
6. Choose the best time for a celebration
Timing is everything in making a holiday gathering a success. You need to choose an appropriate time that works for your loved one. Schedule the party early if your loved one tends to have a better mood in the morning. Otherwise, do it at a later time.
7. Keep decorations minimal
We usually go all out with decorations on special days. Still, to adapt activities for a loved one with dementia, you need to tone down flashes and lights as they can be disorienting and cause aggressive behaviors. If possible, use your loved one’s favorite color in decorating the place, but make sure to limit your color options. The colors red, blue, and green are known to have a positive impact on people living with cognitive impairment.
8. Remove hazards in the venue
If a loved one's vision and spatial ability have significantly deteriorated, make sure that the venue has enough space for walking or moving. Problems with vision and space can lead to falls, so remove clutters on the floor and position the tables and chairs on the side so as not to block the center. Furthermore, avoid placing burning candles or hazardous materials in visible areas.
9. Arrange a quiet space for resting
If your elderly mom or dad is attending a holiday celebration organized by another relative, make sure to arrange a private resting area for them. The place can get chaotic and noisy when the celebration is at its peak, which can stimulate extreme anxiety. Notify the host to have a separate room that your loved one can use to rest if they’re tired or want to escape a noisy environment.
10. Be sensitive to their needs during the event
Don't be too preoccupied with your guests and neglect your elderly loved one. Be perceptive to their needs. During the event, they may need to go to the toilet, out to the garden, or to a calm place. If you're going to be too busy entertaining the guests, hire a caregiver or assign another family member to accompany your loved one for the entire event.
Tailoring Activities to Help a Loved One with Dementia Have Fun
Making an event memorable for a loved one living with dementia has its challenges, but they're easy to overcome by structuring holiday celebrations based on their needs. Being considerate and following the tips above can help you create the perfect party.
Each holiday moment is worth being treasured, so organizing joyful celebrations that allow your loved one to socialize, make new friends, and feel valued, can make their life more meaningful.
Want to know some tips to improve brain health? Our article Simple Ways to Improve Memory and Brain Health has some amazing strategies to properly care for the brain.
Syed has years of experience dealing with people, understanding their needs, and helping them find solutions to their problems.
As a Certified Senior Advisor (CSA), Certified Dementia Practitioner (CDP), Certified Montessori Dementia Care Professional (CMDCP), Syed is committed to working closely with Senior and their family knowing what is it like for individuals facing a challenging time, at times groping in dark trying to figure what is the appropriate next step or care level for their unique situation.
Syed and Senex Memory Advisors are fully committed to working closely with families in creating a personalized, step-by-step process memory care plan at zero cost.