Alzheimer’s Care During the Holidays

By Michelle Seitzer / Posted on 09 December 2011

With added emphasis on spending time with loved ones during the holidays, the presence of Alzheimer’s becomes even more unwelcome. This year, the families of the 5.4 million living with Alzheimer’s or a related dementia will do their best to keep the holidays merry and bright, whether they will visit a family member or friend in assisted living, in a nursing home,  in hospice care, or at home.

Most experts agree that you should never ask someone with Alzheimer’s questions like “do you know who I am?” or “do you know what day it is?” because it often provokes anxiety and agitation. Especially during the holidays, it is important for visiting friends and relatives to remember this: Alzheimer’s is a disease that impacts the brain and its ability to function. If your grandfather remembers your sister’s name but not yours, do not take it personally. Maybe your wife can recall the answer, but if the ability to communicate is lost, the answer will be too. Either way, the answers are irrelevant and the strain on the individual faced with the question is completely unnecessary.

The best thing to do? While you cannot ignore the changes that Alzheimer’s has wrought on your family circle this season, try your best to celebrate the way you always have, to keep the traditions and routines you did before.

Read more about Alzheimer’s care here at the blog.

There are 10 Comments about this post

  1. Annette says,

    I read the article above. Its very true. Try to make holidays special for those who has Alzheimer’s or dementia. It doesn’t matter if they remember your name or not. I lost my husband in January of this year, and I saw the devastating affects this has on families. I saw how sometimes my husband got up set because he could not remember certain things, and asking him certain questions would up set him. I try to make his world happy.


    on 09 December 2011 / 5:24 PM

  2. Susan says,

    Don’t pressure your loved one, if they loved pumpkin pie all his/her lives and suddenly doesn’t like it or does not recognize it, don’t be offended nor pressure him/her to eat it. Try to notice if he/she is uncomfortable by watching facial and other body movements. Celebrate!


    on 09 December 2011 / 6:34 PM

  3. Nicole says,

    Focus on who they ARE – not who they were. It can be difficult, but remember they only have the here and now so join them in that place. Also – SIMPLIFY – too much noise & confusion upsets them so give them a place to escape when they need to rest.


    on 09 December 2011 / 9:05 PM

  4. Ellen says,

    When my Mom was in her final stage of Alzheimers and in a Nursing Home, I took her to hear the Christmas Music Program a local Church had planned for the residents. She loved seeing the children singing along with others dressed in their costumes. Later we watched the Nutcracker Suite on television together. She fell asleep as we watched it . It was just the 2 of us on Christmas Eve, and it was our last one together. Do what you think they would like on any other given Holiday. They will let you know by their reactions if they like it or not. One thing is certain; you will always remember these times together as some of your best.


    on 09 December 2011 / 9:52 PM

  5. Mark says,

    My Dad and I are 10 years into Alz. with my Mom, and over the years, I’ve noticed that large groups of people can be both good and bad for them. Just do what they liked as much as possible, but be prepared to make changes quickly if they get uncomfortable, scared or agitated.
    The most irritating of things are the “Do you remember” questions from others. If your loved one will be around people that haven’t been seen in a while, talk with as many as possible before hand and explain that they shouldn’t ask those questions, but just act like they are remembered, and as if nothing much has changed.
    With Mom, there are times that she will see someone and not visible recognize them at the time, but will say their name or something that relates to that person a few days to a few weeks later.
    Most importantly, treasure the little things…


    on 10 December 2011 / 2:02 AM

  6. Annette, thanks for your thoughtful comments. You’re so right — it is important to make the holidays special whether the individual remembers your name or not. You did the right thing in trying to make your husband’s world happy; so sorry for your loss.


    on 12 December 2011 / 11:26 AM

  7. Susan, yes! Don’t pressure them or be offended if their tastes/preferences have changed. Reading body language is so important too. Thanks for your comments!


    on 12 December 2011 / 11:27 AM

  8. Nicole, beautifully said. Focus on who they are, no matter how difficult that may be. Join them in the present and simplify — also excellent tips. Thanks for sharing them!


    on 12 December 2011 / 11:27 AM

  9. Ellen, thank you for sharing. What a beautiful holiday time you spent with your Mom! Truly special — and a lasting positive memory for you. Your advice is spot-on: do what you think they’d like, and judge their reactions accordingly. Again, thanks for sharing these words and memories.


    on 12 December 2011 / 11:34 AM

  10. These are excellent points, suggestions and comments, Mark. Thank you so much for sharing the insights you have gained through your difficult 10 years in dealing with Alzheimer’s in your family. Our very best to your family as you care for your Mom, both during the holidays and always. Treasuring the little things is SO important; wise words. And yes, that can happen often, where someone may not visibly recognize a friend or family member immediately but may say their name/something related a few days or weeks later. More reason for us to visit with our loved ones even if we “think” they don’t remember us (because they do). Thanks again for your thoughtful comments.


    on 12 December 2011 / 11:37 AM


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