5 helpful tips to make holidays go smoother for people with dementia

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The holidays can be overwhelming for people with dementia. Here are 5 tips to help you make your loved one’s holiday season a happy, relaxing one!

1. Have a plan. I can’t stress this enough: you’ll want a plan for when the person with dementia is arriving at your holiday gathering, when they are leaving, how long they are staying, etc. You don’t want it to be 11:00 at night when you suddenly remember that your grandmother needs to be dropped back off at her care community.

2. Have a quiet space available. Make a space for your loved one to spend time in that is away from the rest of the holiday gathering. Be it a back bedroom, an office, etc., it should be a place in the house where he or she can “get away from it all.”

3. Go and visit if you can’t bring them to your party. If you can’t (for any reason) bring your loved one to your holiday gathering, go visit them where they are. Please don’t just assume that they will “forget” about the holiday. Instead, make an extra trip to visit that person.

4. Know their diet. If it’s Halloween and your father with dementia isn’t supposed to eat sticky, tough-to-chew foods because he has trouble chewing and swallowing, giving him a Snickers bar probably is not a great idea. Have options available that your loved one can eat without much hassle.

5. Know YOUR loved one. All of these tips are great, but apply them only when you know what would work best for your loved one. Although I’ve written these tips with the majority of people with dementia in mind, there are always those that are outliers! Not all of us respond the same to overwhelming stimuli.

Then, of course, here’s a good question from a reader. “Is it okay if my grandfather doesn’t come to Thanksgiving at all?”

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Rachael Wonderlin is an internationally-recognized dementia care expert and consultant. She has a Master’s in Gerontology and is the author of two published books with Johns Hopkins University Press. Rachael owns Dementia By Day, a dementia care consulting and education company.

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