Tips on Helping Persons with Dementia Over the Holidays (1)

For most people, the festive season is a fun and joyous time of year – getting together with family, relatives and friends to celebrate the holidays. However, for people living with dementia and their caregivers, the festive season can be a stressful time of the year. The following article is intended to provide some general considerations about having a relaxing and enjoyable time as much as possible for the persons with dementia and their caregiver.

Considerations for Persons living with Dementia

People living with dementia will react in a different way to the changes in routine around the festive season where the family usually gets together. This can trigger emotional memories that could be difficult for the person with dementia to deal with.

People with dementia can become anxious in a crowded environment. Make sure a quieter spacious area is made available for them. It may be of help to think of familiar activities and tasks that a person is doing in their day-to-day life. Some examples of activities may include: sharing happy moments and celebrations, looking at old photographs together, listening to favorite music, taking walks, etc. Have them in your activities and reassure them that their help is valued.

Those living with dementia may get some comfort from spiritual activities if they are religious. Think of their past religious attitudes, and to try to accommodate their wishes. This may include listening to familiar church music or visiting familiar places of worship.

The festive season can be an unsettling time. Some people with dementia may become confused, anxious or aggressive. Spend time explaining things and offering re-assurances often.

Minimizing Caregiver Holiday Stress

Although it is easier said than done, keeping in mind the following ways of coping with stress as much as possible may help the caregiver.

  • Make a point to take some time for yourself, even if it is only for a few minutes during the day to go for a walk.
  • Pace yourself and set realistic goals – letting go of tasks that are not urgent.
  • If you are struggling to deal with the stress of caring for a person with dementia over the holiday season, and want to talk impartially and in confidence to someone, you can call the Alzheimer Society of BC at 1-800-936-6033.
  • Remember to look after yourself- eat healthy, exercise and get enough sleep.
  • You should accept help from family members if they offer. Ask them if they don’t.
  • Sometimes you have to select activities and traditions that mean the most to you and your family members.
  • Keep activities as simple as possible. For example, try to consolidate your shopping at fewer places, attend smaller family gatherings, and invite only a few guests at a time to make easier for yourself and the person with dementia.
  • Give yourself permission to enjoy the holiday season by spending time with family and friends as much as possible even though the person you are caring for is not able to participate.
  • Keep in mind that you may feel lonely, angry, sad, and disappointed before, during, and after the holiday season. This does not mean that you love the person with dementia any less. Experiencing these feelings are natural aspects of being a caregiver. It is important to express them to persons who you feel are supportive and understanding of your situation.

Click here to read Part 2


  • Alzheimer’s Society of BC. (2010). In Touch: Special Publication.
  • Alzheimer’s Australia NSW. (2009). Christmas With a Loved One Living with Dementia.

Written by Tom Teranishi

Japanese translation by Tomoko Koike

This article was originally published in December 2012 and December 2015 issues of the Bulletin.

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