Dementia and the Holidays Top 10 Tips | Avalon Memory Care

Dementia and the Holidays Top 10 Tips

At a time when most of us are stringing lights, trimming trees and jingling the bells, our friends and family diagnosed with dementia may be struggling to understand it all.  December can be an exceptionally stressful month for people living with dementia, even in typical years. Adding the social isolation required to avoid a virus running rampant in the land adds another element to the weirdness and can make the holidays even more difficult.

Not surprisingly, how to help people with dementia enjoy (or at least best tolerate) holiday celebrations is a common topic. So, we decided to conduct an informal survey of the advice experts give for helping people with dementia and their caregivers during the holidays. The results are a list of the greatest hits, best-of-the-best, top-ten dementia care tips and advice for the holidays. And, of course, since it’s still the time of COVID, we’ve also summarized some tips for celebrating during a pandemic.

We surveyed advice from the Mayo Clinic, the Alzheimer’s Association, the National Institutes of Health, and several independent expert organizations.

Top 10 Holiday Dementia Care Tips

  1. Plan and Prepare – Every organization and expert had a lot to say about the benefits of being prepared.
  2. Involve the person with dementia in preparation, or just let them be present while you prepare. Whether or not they participate, they will feel more a part of the celebration and be able to anticipate and reminisce. Focus on the activity, not the outcome.
  3. Create a safe and calming space for everyone to celebrate in. Decorate using simple decorations with no flashing lights or gaudy displays. Avoid clutter or rearranging furniture. Avoid lighted candles, fragile decorations, or any other hazardous decorations.
  4. Set up a separate, quiet space for your loved one with dementia to retreat to when uncomfortable or agitated. Have enjoyable activities ready: simple puzzles, picture albums, and favorite music and headphones to help the person regain calm.
  5. Prepare your guests for interacting with a person with dementia. Explain: the care environment, how people with dementia may behave and how changes in behavior and memory are the result of the disease, not the intention of the person. Provide guidelines for conversations, such as to listen patiently without interrupting, to avoid pointing out repeated comments or correcting errors, etc.
  6. Celebrate in a familiar location and in familiar ways with just a few family members and friends. Play familiar holiday music at a low volume, sing carols, celebrate with traditional holiday foods, watch a holiday movie, or light an advent candle or menorah. Keep daily routines in place as much as possible.
  7. Less is More – For you and for your loved one with dementia, keep it simple. For you – if your to-do list as long as your arm, consider cutting back or delegating tasks to other family members to free up some time for yourself. (See “Make time for yourself,” below for some ideas.)
  8. Use the Force – Don’t be afraid to ask for help – set your own limits and be clear about communicating your limits to your friends and relatives. Have this 800-number handy – (800) 272-3900. Join a support group in advance.
  9. Care for Caregivers – The current COVID-19 crisis creates additional challenges that can overwhelm families impacted by dementia. It’s more important than ever to take care of your physical, mental and emotional well-being.
  10. Make time for yourself. Set aside your own time to rest, exercise, make healthy foods and spend time outside. Assign a few tasks to a family member or friend so that you can shop or enjoy a holiday drive on your own.

COVID Era Tips

For most of us this year, we should limit our celebrations to virtual visits via video call software like Zoom or Skype or phone calls. If you decide to risk in-person visits (which as of this writing would be only people in Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Maine, or Vermont since every other U.S. state is at severe active outbreak levels), remember the following:

For more sensible celebrations

  • No contact goody and gift drop off reduces risk
  • Have family members and friends drive by during a pre-set time to wave or display holiday greetings for your loved one.
  • Schedule a visit outside that is properly socially-distanced.
  • Walk or drive around the neighborhood to view holiday lights and decorations.
  • Connect online via Zoom or Skype with help from a family member or staff.
  • Plan a video call to cook or bake a special recipe together.
  • Record and send a family video holiday card including personalized messages.

All is Calm, All is Bright

After a year like we’ve had, finding calm over the holidays is a brilliant idea for ALL of us.  So many people have said this year that they’ve learned to slow down, to be more in the moment, it find joy in simple things of life and spend time with the ones that matter most to them in life.  Sounds a lot like the day-in-the-life of our loved ones with dementia.  What a beautiful, bright lesson they teach us every day.

Sources Also available via chat and email.

See More Articles

  • Visiting Your Aging Parent With Memory Loss at Avalon Memory Care

    As a loving son or daughter, you naturally want the best of care for your senior parent. The compassionate assisted living caregivers at Avalon Memory Care want you to know that while your parent is living with us, he or she will receive nothing less than respectful, loving care within our comfortable, safe, and fully-staffed

  • Celebrating New Year’s Day in Memory Care

    Families often find that celebrations with their loved ones in memory care are easier when they embrace new traditions. For instance, it may not be practical to expect your loved one to stay up until midnight on New Year’s Eve. Instead, consider throwing a New Year’s Day celebration, complete with a countdown to the first

  • Understanding Parkinson’s Disease and Dementia

    Parkinson’s disease is an incurable neurological disorder, with progressively worsening complications. Perhaps the most well-known symptom of Parkinson’s is a hand tremor, but it can also cause speech changes, muscle rigidity, and impaired posture. Eventually, as the disease progresses, more than half of all individuals with Parkinson’s will require dementia care. This particular type of


“Since my mother has lived at Avalon, I have had peace of mind for the first time since Alzheimer’s began to exact its terrible price from my mother’s life. Thank you for your part in making our lives better.”
Daughter | Ft. Worth, TX
“I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate the care and love afforded to my mom over the last two weeks. Your success in finding such quality people has my gratitude and respect.”
Daughter | Dallas, TX
“We are very pleased with all of the efforts that your caring staff has made to smooth this traumatic transition.”
Son | Plano, TX
“I know my husband had the very best care in his final days. I regret that I did not know about Avalon sooner.”
Wife | Dallas, TX
“Mom spent the final 8 months of her life in Avalon Memory Care in Allen. The staff was great. There was rarely a day that my brother or I did not come by and they were always friendly to us and did their best to make mom comfortable and happy. We really appreciated them for everything they did.”
Daughter | Allen, TX
“Making the decision to place my mother in residential memory care was the hardest thing I think I have ever done. But living at Avalon has been the best thing for her at this stage of her life.”
Daughter | Allen, TX
“My grandmother has lived at Avalon Memory Care for 6 months now. I cannot speak highly enough about the warmth, dedication, and caring compassion of the staff. They always make us feel welcome and go out of their way to work with us to accommodate grandma’s needs.”
Grandson | Arlington, TX
“My grandmother spent her final days at Avalon and we couldn’t have asked for a better place to care for her. The caregivers are attentive and kind, and many of them have been with Avalon for years. If you are looking for a place to love on you and your family in a season that is inevitably difficult, Avalon is a wonderful choice.”
Granddaughter | Arlington, TX
“We are delighted with the facility of Avalon Memory Care. We just placed Grandma in an apartment with them and couldn’t be happier. It is clean and well-lit, and everyone greets us, down to the folks who clean up.”
Granddaughter | Arlington, TX

Schedule a Tour

Visit one of our 30+ campuses and experience our unique approach to memory care.

Book Now

Careers at Avalon

Explore our wide range of
career opportunities!

Learn More