a family sitting together eating a meal a family sitting together eating a meal

Hosting the Holidays as an Alzheimer’s Family Caregiver

Twinkling lights and festive songs herald the arrival of the holiday season, a time typically filled with family, joy, and tradition. When a loved one has Alzheimer’s, these occasions can feel different. Family members may wonder if they can still host as they did in past years or participate in cherished family traditions. While this season can bring its share of challenges for families dealing with cognitive impairment, with understanding and adjustments, it’s still possible to celebrate with our loved ones. Here are some tips to ensure a meaningful and comfortable celebration.

Prioritize comfort and familiarity: For someone with Alzheimer’s, the hustle and bustle of the holidays can be disorienting and stressful. Try to keep the atmosphere calm and avoid overstimulation. This means maintaining routine as much as possible and perhaps celebrating in a familiar setting that your loved one recognizes. Familiar holiday music played softly in the background and traditional decorations can evoke pleasant memories and feelings of safety.

“Use reminiscence therapy  to tap into those memories,” advises Right at Home Twin Cities’ owner Paul Blom. “Ask questions about their favorite Christmas gift as a kid, or their favorite recipes to enjoy during the holiday,” he says.

Simplify your celebrations: Decorating and planning elaborate gatherings can be fun during the holidays. However, simplicity is key when involving a family member with Alzheimer’s. Smaller, quieter, and shorter festivities can prevent your loved one from becoming overwhelmed. It’s also smart to schedule gatherings earlier in the day when a person with Alzheimer’s is more likely to be alert and engaged. If you’ll be attending a spiritual service, consider sitting near an exit so you can leave discreetly if necessary.

“You may want to have smaller events with fewer family members, but you can still maintain some version of the traditions you’ve always loved,” says Paul.

Involve your loved one in the preparation: Engaging your relative in simple holiday preparations can help provide a sense of purpose and joy. Allow them to assist with manageable tasks such as setting the table, decorating cookies, or doing crafts. These activities can stimulate their senses and evoke positive emotions, helping them feel included in the festivities.

Foster a supportive environment: The holidays are a communal time, so ensure friends and family are aware of your loved one’s condition and are prepared to interact appropriately. Brief them on the best communication practices, such as speaking slowly and clearly, and being patient with responses. Encourage reminiscing about old times, but be ready to gently steer the conversation if it becomes confusing or upsetting for your loved one.

Paul suggests it may be the ideal time to capture some of the memories your loved one shares. “Life moves fast. Families are scattered all over, and the winter holidays tend to bring people together, so it’s a great time to document those memories that remain.”

During one client’s intake, Paul discovered that—unbeknownst to his children—the client was once a Morse code translator who helped Charles Lindbergh land at the Minneapolis airport! Later, the man’s Right at Home caregiver helped record his other memories for his family to enjoy for years to come.

Adapt gift-giving: Traditional gift-giving can still be a part of your holiday, but with a focus on usefulness rather than extravagance. Consider gifts that your loved one can enjoy immediately, like comfortable clothing, photo albums, or music from their youth. These thoughtful presents can bring comfort and pleasure to a person with Alzheimer’s.

Monitor for overstimulation: Keep a watchful eye on your loved one for signs of fatigue or agitation. They may not be able to communicate their discomfort as clearly as before. If they seem restless or overwhelmed, it might be time to take a break from the festivities and allow them some quiet time.

One client of Paul’s was a beloved second-grade teacher for much of her life. And her home held the treasured apple-themed teacher gifts she was given over the years. “When she became agitated,” Paul explains, “all I had to do was pick something up and ask about it and she was instantly brought back to those happy memories.”

Stories like these are why Paul knows that gathering a comprehensive life history is part of what sets apart the Right at Home experience. “We really celebrate the whole life lived—how they grew up and met their spouse, spent their careers—those details help us understand our clients better.”

Practice self-care: Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s can be demanding, and the added stress of the holidays can take a toll on your mental and physical health. Ensure that you also take time for rest and reflection. Accept help from others and don’t hesitate to reach out to support groups for additional resources, including emotional support. It may help to have a list of some tasks that family members or home caregivers can help with when they are available.

By remaining flexible, planning ahead, and communicating thoughtfully, people can have meaningful celebrations that include our loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease.


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Need help right now? Call us anytime at

(360) 392-3934

Need help right now? Call us anytime at

(360) 392-3934