Tips on Helping Persons with Dementia Over the Holidays (2)

Preparing for a Person with Dementia Visiting over the Holidays

It is important to consider both the practical and emotional needs of your guest prior to their visit.

  • For your visitor’s safely and security, label doors, the bathroom, the kitchen, and the visitor’s own room.
  • Label the kitchen cupboards and drawers to help the person with dementia to find their way around more easily.
  • Think about the specialized equipment you may need and buy or borrow it in advance.
  • Find a place in the house or garden where the person with dementia can still be involved but in a quieter situation to encourage one-to-one conversation with family and friends.

Safety and Security

  • Wandering is one of the biggest problems associated with dementia. Especially during the busy holiday time, it is easy for a person with dementia to slip out of the house unnoticed.
  • Keep doors and slide patio glasses leading to busy roads closed and locked. You can assign a family member to be a buddy to accompany them if they want to take a walk.
  • Deciding upon a plan of action ahead of time if you are worried about the person with dementia leaving the house and getting lost.

Check your house for anything that can be dangerous for the person with dementia:

  • Leave the light on in the hall and the bathroom when you go to bed, and a night light on in the person’s room.
  • Remove any items lying on the floor or on the stairs.
  • Lock away any medicines or dangerous substances such as cleaning fluids or paint.
  • If the person with dementia is no longer able to recognize danger, make sure dangerous instruments such as sharp knives, scissors and other tools with cutting edges are removed to where the person with dementia cannot reach them.
  • Remember to keep spare keys in a safe place.
  • Make sure that doors and windows are locked/closed at night.

Remembering Family Names 

This causes the most frustration for those persons living with dementia. Particularly if the family is very familiar to them.

If you notice this happening, ask family members to remind the person with dementia of their names and their connection from time to time.

Food and Mealtimes 

Holiday family meals play a big part in the family get together.

You may feel quite anxious about how to involve the person with dementia in this activity – especially if the person has poor appetite or have difficulty eating.

  • Don’t overload their plates.
  • Avoid having lots of different patterns and decorations at the dinner table. It is good to use plain coloured table cloths with plain plates of a different colour.
  • As the person may feel self-conscious at a large gathering dinner table, check whether they are happy to eat with family (especially if there are other non-family members present). Ask whether if the person would rather eat in a different room, eat at a different time or on their own.
  • Try to be open-minded about the unusual food combinations they may choose. They may enjoy their food with strong or spicy sauces or seasonings which may seem strange to you.
  • Consider if the person is able, to involve him or her in tasks for the meal preparation.
  • There is usually drinking of alcohol at festive dinners. Drinking alcohol in moderation is fine for many people but remember that alcohol can increase confusion and contribute to falls. Some medications do not mix well with alcohol so check what has been recommended by their doctor if in any doubt. The best rule of thumb is to serve non-alcoholic beverages to persons with dementia.

Click here to read Part 3 | Part 1


  • 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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