This year, the holidays might look a little different due to COVID-19. But by making some small, thoughtful changes, you can help ensure this season is enjoyable for you all. We’ve put together some ideas of how you can participate in holiday activities together, whether visiting in-person or from a safe distance.


Finding the right balance

  • Celebrate holidays that are important to you. Include the person with dementia as much as possible.
  • Set your own limits and be clear about them with others.
  • Involve the person living with dementia in simple holiday preparations like decorating the house or cooking dinner, or talk and engage with them as they watch you get things ready.
  • Prepare quiet distractions to use, such as a family photo album or favorite movie, if the person with dementia becomes upset or agitated.
  • Try to avoid situations that may confuse or frustrate the person with dementia, such as changes in routine and strange places. Also try to stay away from loud noises, lighting that is too bright or too dark, and having too much rich food or drinks (especially alcohol).
  • Find time for holiday activities you like to do. If it’s safe, ask a trusted family member to spend time with the person while you get out of the house for a bit.

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Connecting with family/friends

Preparing guests ahead of time will help them know what changes to expect.

  • If it is safe to have guests, an initial phone call discussing memory loss and communication tips for those visiting might help prevent any conflict or confusion.
  • For in-person visits, also consider engaging with the senses (rather than relying on conversation, if it’s difficult): enjoy the scent of pumpkin spice, play their favorite holiday song, light a menorah together, or taste familiar treats such as peppermint, eggnog, latkes, etc.
  • If you choose to not have guests, ask family/friends to send notes or record video messages.
  • Schedule phone calls or Zoom calls but prepare those wanting to connect virtually for the challenge of physically-distanced visits: they may need to be short, they may feel awkward, the person may not be able to recognize/follow what’s happening
  • When interacting, offer compassionate ways for the guests to validate and respond to what the person with Alzheimer’s is saying.
  • Stress that the meaningfulness of the moment together matters more than what the person remembers or says.

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If your person is living in a memory care facility, here are some thoughtful ideas for including them in your celebrations.

Talk with the community staff/administration

  • Ask about their plans for the holidays, such as meals, events, activities. Are family members able to attend either virtually or otherwise? Is there time set aside for window visits?
  • Share some history and background information with community staff, so they can help make your loved one’s holidays special. What are some of their treasured traditions, favorite holiday foods, beloved songs, or prayers and other rituals?
  • Consider placing a meaningful piece of holiday decor in their room (if safe and feasible), as a point of reminiscence/conversation.

Preparing for a facility visit

  • Put together a photo book of the year. These are available at places like Costco or Shutterfly. It is important to add captions for photos with names and descriptions.  These work for in-person visits as something you can look through with your person. The book can also be easily mailed as a nice gift.
  • Visitors should prepare themselves that their person may look different from the last time they saw them, and there may have been a decline in memory. After all, it may have been several months since your last visit.
  • Try not to focus on the length of the visit but the quality. The focus of the visit needs to be the comfort of the person being visited and not the visitors.
  • Lastly, don’t feel stressed that a holiday visit has to happen on the holiday itself.  Trying to fit a visit into an already busy day does not allow for the most relaxed visit.  Think about visits during the holiday season versus on the holiday itself, especially since their safety is a priority.

Need some support during the holidays? We’re here to help! Give us a call to speak with one of our dementia experts at 858.492.4400.