The further into a memory loss disease a loved one gets, the harder it may seem to want to celebrate the holidays in the same ways you used to. It might not feel the same to have Thanksgiving without grandma, but if her Alzheimer’s disease leaves her frightened by groups of people, bringing her to a large family gathering may not be the best idea.  In order to make the holidays special, and not as overwhelming, you’ll need to plan, to compromise, and to hopefully make memories with your loved one that you can treasure after they are gone.

Manage Your Expectations

Rule number one for the holidays is to manage your expectations. As one of the millions of families dealing with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, or other memory related issue, you probably have had a taste of how sensitive your loved one is to changes in their environment. Some can handle seeing lots of people. Some can handle loud noises or a meal in the evening Many cannot, though, and these things will cause them to act out.

You can manage some of this confusion and acting out by keeping your family gathering as dementia-friendly as possible. If it is early on in the diagnosis, your loved one may be hesitant to reach out, or to include as many people as you may have in the past. If it is later in the progression of dementia, then your loved one may not be able to handle seeing many people at one time. Making your plans based on their current abilities will help keep you, and your loved one, happier through the holidays.

Help Manage Other People’s Expectations

Many of the people in your day to day life will be aware of how your loved one is progressing. Those who are out of town, or only visit sparingly, may need to be told how grandma is doing, and be reminded of what grandma is like now, on a day to day basis. Call or email attendees early, and explain your loved one’s current state, and how it has changed since the person last saw them. has a few suggestions for starting the conversation in a letter or email:

> “I’m writing to let you know how things are going at our house. While we’re looking forward to your visit, we thought it might be helpful if you understood our current situation before you arrive.

>> “You may notice that ___ has changed since you last saw him/her. Among the changes you may notice are ___.

>> “I’ve enclosed a picture so you know how ___ looks now. Because ___ sometimes has problems remembering and thinking clearly, his/her behavior is a little unpredictable.

>> “Please understand that ___ may not remember who you are and may confuse you with someone else. Please don’t feel offended by this. He/she appreciates your being with us and so do we.”

>> “Please treat ___ as you would any person. A warm smile and a gentle touch on ___’s shoulder or hand will be appreciated more than you know.”

>> “We would ask that you call when you’re nearby so we can prepare for your arrival. With your help and support, we can create a holiday memory that we’ll all treasure.”

There are many ways to say it, just be sure to be honest and up front with your family and friends about your loved one’s condition.

Staying at Home With Family

If your loved one is still in the house, you can easily do a few things to make their holidays easier. As we talked about in the post on keeping a safe space for memory care patients, you can do things like:

  • Keep them out of the kitchen- Knives, hot foods, and stress are just a few of the things lurking in the kitchen at the holidays.
  • Create a space for your loved one away from visitors, so that they can retreat if they need space or quiet.
  • Keep the guest list small and familiar – If you’ve usually run the biggest holiday parties in town, you may want to scale down a little if you’re going to include your loved one. If they do not have problems with crowds or noises, then you can work with them to find the right balance.

Having Thanksgiving at a Care Facility

If you’re visiting a Memory Care Facility, such as Landmark Memory Care, then make sure to call ahead to the facility to ask what the right time to visit will be. It may be very stressful on a holiday, and you might find that celebrating before or after the holiday by a few days can take off some of the stress. Remember that the facility is caring for many people, and there will likely be a special celebration on the holiday itself. 

If you want to take your relative out of the facility for the day, be sure they are capable of the activities you have planned. Be aware that the amount of sights, sounds, and choices available in new settings can be very disorienting to someone with Alzheimer’s disease. Be sure you have the information for the facility handy, in case you need to quickly return.

Care for Yourself

The holidays are of course a fun and special time, but they can also be very stressful for caregivers and families. Plan something fun for yourself during the holiday season, so that you get a break and have some time to enjoy living your own life. There are respite services available in many facilities, which range from adult day care to overnight stays. Landmark Memory Care offers day care, which lets you take some much needed time as a caregiver.

Landmark doesn’t offer this service just at the holidays, we offer it all year long! If you feel you need a few hours to do whatever you need to do, give us a call to set up a time. Our daycare allows your loved one to have a social experience with minimal stress and the support staff ready to help at a moment’s notice. Take care of yourself, and give your loved one a day out they can enjoy. Contact Landmark Memory Care to talk to our specialists about your loved one’s needs today.