Dementia & The Holidays: Navigating the Season with Love and Understanding


Iris Memory Care of Turtle Creek

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Dec 11, 2023


Non-Book Market , Texas - Dallas, Collin, SE Denton & Rockwall Counties

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Dementia & The Holidays: Navigating the Season with Love and Understanding

By Paula Jones

Dealing with dementia in a loved one can be a challenging journey, and the holiday season often adds an extra layer of complexity. Understanding the unique needs and behaviors associated with dementia is crucial for creating a supportive and enjoyable environment for your loved one. In this article, we'll explore the characteristics of dementia, practical tips for caregivers, and thoughtful gift ideas to make the holidays special for those with dementia.

Understanding Dementia: A Brief Overview

Dementia is a comprehensive term encompassing various diseases that cause cognitive decline, affecting memory, language, thought processes, navigation, behavior, personality, mood, planning, and organizing. Examples of diseases associated with dementia include Alzheimer's, Lewy bodies, vascular dementia, frontal temporal dementia, Parkinson's, Huntington's, and mixed dementia. There are approximately 80 different terms related to this condition.

Recognizing Signs of Dementia

Memory Loss: Forgetfulness, especially of recently learned information, is a common early sign. Individuals may repeatedly ask the same questions and increasingly rely on memory aids or family members.

·      Challenges: Difficulties in planning, problem-solving, and concentrating on tasks may arise. Managing daily activities, like following a recipe or handling bills, may become challenging.

·      Difficult Days: Completing familiar tasks becomes difficult, and individuals may struggle with activities they once did effortlessly, such as driving or remembering game rules.

·      Confusion: Losing track of time, dates, and locations is common. Individuals may struggle to comprehend situations not occurring immediately.

·      Understanding Visual Images: Vision problems may occur, affecting activities like reading or judging distance, leading to issues with driving and walking.

·      Word Finding: Difficulty in participating in or following conversations, repeating oneself, struggling with vocabulary, or using the wrong words.

·      Losing Things: Misplacing items, accusing others of stealing, and an inability to retrace steps may happen.

·      Poor Judgment: Changes in decision-making and judgment, such as poor financial choices or neglecting personal grooming.

·      Withdrawal: Social withdrawal, avoiding hobbies, and difficulties in keeping up with favorite activities.

·      Mood and Personality Changes: Shifts in mood, including confusion, suspicion, depression, fear, or anxiety.


Thoughtful Holiday Gift Ideas for Individuals with Dementia

Understanding the unique needs of those with dementia can help in choosing gifts that provide comfort and joy:

·      Music: Create playlists of special songs from their past.

·      Memory Lane: Frame photos from their college years or other significant moments.

·      Aromatherapy: Essential oil roll-ons, like Lavender for night and Peppermint for day.

·      Practical Comfort: Items like large digital wall clocks, timed heating pads, warm slippers, and fuzzy robes.

·      Entertainment: Bluetooth headphones, favorite movies, and easy-slip-on shoes.

·      Subscription Services: Consider meal subscriptions, ice cream, root beer floats, or gift cards to various places.

·      Personal Care: Gift certificates for salon or spa services, massage, or theater tickets.

·      Support for Caregivers: Offer help with chores, groceries, or provide a listening ear.


Navigating the Holidays with Dementia: Practical Tips

·      Meeting Them Where They Are: Celebrate in familiar settings and focus on the strengths of your loved one.

·      Engaging Activities: Involve your loved one in holiday preparations at their level.

·      Adapt Traditions: Hold on to family traditions but be flexible and adapt them to your loved one's abilities.

·      Take Care of Yourself: As a caregiver, remember to prioritize self-care and take breaks when needed.


Handling the Holidays with Dementia: Additional Tips

·      Simplify Celebrations: Keep celebrations simple to avoid overwhelming your loved one.

·      One-on-One Time: Allow each family member special one-on-one time with your relative.

·      Flexibility and Realism: Be flexible with plans, limit visits, and adapt to changes in your loved one’s behavior.

·      Environmental Considerations: Be aware of environmental stimuli, avoiding excessive decorations or unfamiliar settings.


Managing Stress: Signs and Strategies

Recognize signs of stress in caregivers and implement strategies to cope:

·      Physical Warning Signs: Fatigue, sleepiness, withdrawal, headaches, muscle tension, increased anxiety, gastrointestinal issues, and increased heart rate.

·      Behavioral Changes: Forgetfulness, difficulty concentrating, changes in eating and sleeping habits, negative mood, and increased alcohol consumption.


Crunch Time Tips for Caregivers

Prioritize Tasks: Create a to-do list and prioritize tasks to manage your time effectively.

·      Schedule Wisely: Tackle demanding tasks during the morning and follow them with easier or shorter tasks.

·      Take Breaks: Schedule breaks to clear your mind and prevent burnout.

·      Stick to Budgets: Be mindful of your holiday budget to avoid additional stress.


Final Thoughts: Embracing Imperfection and Meaning

Remember, the holidays are about love, sharing, peace, making time for others, giving, and spreading good cheer. Embrace imperfections, focus on what truly matters, and find joy in spending time together.

About the Author:

Paula Jones is the Community Relations Director at Iris Memory Care of Turtle Creek. She also serves as a Support Group facilitator with the Alzheimer's Association, providing valuable insights and support for caregivers. For more information, contact Paula at or call 469.560.0424.

Connect with Iris Memory Care:


Facebook: Iris Memory Care of Turtle Creek

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