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The constraints of the COVID pandemic wreaked havoc on last year’s holiday season, leaving many families isolated from one another. Fortunately, this season families are able to embrace the chance to safely gather together again. While decking the halls and preparing for visits with loved ones, it’s important to consider adapting holiday activities for seniors with dementia so that they can enjoy the holiday season to the fullest too.

These guidelines from our Des Moines elder care team are a great starting place:

Smaller is better.

Scheduling visits and including fewer people at a time rather than one large get together with the entire family will likely be easier for the senior to handle. Overstimulation, too much noise, and breaking from routine may cause irritation and anxiety.

Timing is essential.

Pay close attention to the person’s moods throughout the course of an average day. Is the older adult more alert, engaged, and content in the early mornings, or later in the evening? To the degree you can, plan get-togethers around that time of day – even if it means breaking a longstanding family tradition. A holiday brunch might be more pleasurable for the older adult than an evening party, for example.

Personal space is vital.

Find a calm room away from the hustle and bustle of family and friends, and help the senior retreat to that area when necessary. Watch for early indicators that the individual is feeling stressed, and have a few relaxing activities at the ready, like soft music to enjoy, a photo album for reminiscing, or even a nap.

Pre-plan activities.

Prior to the gathering, put together a list of things the senior specifically loves and responds to, and brainstorm activities around those ideas. A senior who loves music (as many with dementia do) might enjoy listening to a grandchild play traditional holiday tunes on the piano while everyone sings along. Somebody who has always enjoyed baking can participate in rolling out pie crust or mixing cookie dough.

Keep an eye on the senior’s patience for holiday visiting. There is nothing wrong with leaving a gathering early if it’s in the older adult’s best interest.

Similarly, keep your own needs in mind. Caring for a senior loved one with dementia is not easy, and adding in the additional elements involved in the holiday season can bring extra strain to family caregivers as well.

At-Home Care Company offers Des Moines elder care services that allow family caregivers to take time for themselves. We’re available whenever you need a break, including at family functions such as holiday parties. Let one of our skilled dementia care staff serve as a companion for a senior with dementia, ensuring all of his or her needs are met throughout the event and letting you relax and fully enjoy family time.

Reach out to us at 515-292-2650 to set up for a no-cost in-home assessment and schedule some holiday care for a loved one – and for yourself! Visit our Service Area page for a full list of the communities where we offer care.