Dementia-Style Holidays

When Alzheimer’s is on the scale, a drop of anything can send everything crashing.

Families long for the traditions that mark the holidays. Special foods, music, colors, clothing, and decor trigger emotions and tie memories of the past with the ones we make today. Sadly, our meaningful traditions are likely to be too much for our loved one with dementia.

Every level of stimulation we add on to their day requires them to manage it with diminishing brain power. They must process holiday lights; aromas from the kitchen; rich foods; and music, laughter, and multiple conversations with little ability to do so. It is all too exhausting for them and can result in agitation, anxiety, and fatigue.

Maintaining a predictable routine with limited, controlled stimulation, and periodic rest periods is the key to keeping a person with mid-to-late stage Alzheimer’s and other dementias calm. This pattern can be difficult on a good day much less during the holiday season when we all are over-stimulated and over-tired.

Parties that include our loved one with dementia are best limited to a handful of people at a time, close to or at home, in a quiet location, and for no more than two to three hours including travel time. Family members who do not spend much time with our loved one may not understand the change in traditions, or that our loved one may not be able to attend their festivities at all. But for our loved one’s good, we are required to consider their perspective rather than our own or anyone else’s.

We perpetually mourn the loss of our loved one with dementia all along their journey. Little-by-little, we lose the joys that bind us. The holidays illustrate these losses as celebrating with them is often more difficult for them than memorable or meaningful and therefore, need to be modified or completely abandoned.


My last presentation of the year, “The Alzheimer’s Spouse,” will be from 1:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, December 5, 2019 at The Inter-Faith Chapel at Leisure World, 3680 S. Leisure World Boulevard, Silver Spring, MD 20906. For reservations, please call Julie Boone Roth, 301.847.3051

The Alzheimer’s Spouse is available from and ACTA Publications.comNavigating Alzheimer’s is also available from Amazon and ACTA.


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