When Memory Loss Affects the Holidays

As the holiday season approaches, many families and friends look forward to gatherings and celebrations. Though it's a cheerful time for many, holiday gatherings can be a challenge for seniors suffering from dementia or memory loss. It can also be a trying time for those caring for older adults. Faced with different routines, activities and conversations, seniors dealing with memory loss may feel overwhelmed. It's important to know that there are many ways to connect with your loved ones without causing stress or anxiety during holiday gatherings.

To ensure that holiday time is enjoyable for you and your loved ones, here are a few tips:

  • The holidays are a time to celebrate and reflect on family traditions and memories. Take the time to reminisce about stories from the past but do not put pressure on seniors to recall names or details of the story. They simply may enjoy listing to stories of the past.
  • Prepare family members, friends and other visitors to let them know that the person may have changed since they last saw them. Explain that he or she may not recognize them or confuse them with someone else. Remind family and friends not to be offended as the individual has some forgetfulness. Remind them to treat him or her as normal as possible and with respect.
  • Try to avoid situations that will confuse or frustrate the individual, such as talking about current events or topics they don't remember.
  • Plan activities that are familiar such as singing old holiday songs, singing church hymns, watching old holiday movies, soft music, etc. Music can act as therapy soothing a person affected by dementia.
  • Try to schedule activities earlier in the day because as the day goes on the senior may become tired and restless. Try not to disrupt their typical routine and schedule meals around their usual meal time.
  • Create traditional family recipes. If the senior in your family enjoys cooking, invite them to help in the kitchen with simple tasks. Familiar smells and tastes can evoke positive memories in those affected by memory loss.

Despite the challenges of memory loss, it's important to celebrate the special moments together.

Express your love and gratitude with a warm smile and gentle touch. If you know a senior who is lonely this time of year, reach out to them. The love and comfort of family and friends make a difference. Especially for seniors who are dealing with dementia or memory loss during the holiday season.

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