Help Loved Ones with Dementia Feel More at Ease During the Holidays

Minor adjustments can make a major impact when interacting with people who need extra kindness and consideration.

By Leah Felderman BA MA  
Updated: 12/08/2019  
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multigenerational family home for the holidays Photo by monkeybusinessimages on Bigstock

How does a household of family navigate interactions with an elderly family member struggling with dementia?

The role of the responsible adult in a house full of family typically gets delegated to the host and/or a select few family members. Yet, certain situations require the collaboration of the entire holiday party. Such is the case when a family member has dementia.

It is important that all family (and close friends) that are present at the holiday gatherings be made aware of the family member’s plight. The act of informing is not to be the bearer of bad news nor to spread family gossip. Rather, by letting others know of the situation at hand there can be cooperation on how to best assist the loved one with dementia enjoy the holidays to the fullest. Minor adjustments can make a major impact when interacting with people who need extra kindness and consideration.


Include your family member with dementia in the planning.

If possible actively include them in the planning of the family gatherings. If this is not feasible, find out what they would like to participate in and what aspects of the holidays they would like to skip this year. Maybe your elderly loved one with dementia prefers smaller family gatherings to lessen the stress. Perhaps an event that concludes a bit earlier than in years past is desirable for fear of sundowners.

Adjust expectations.

Build on positive past traditions and memories; ditch traditions that may cause undue stress or other negative impacts. Also adjust as needed during the course of holiday events. If something isn’t working be prepared to modify on the spot; if something is working well, stick with it!

Involve the family member in all possible aspects of the celebration.

Focus on activities that are meaningful and enjoyable to the person with dementia. Watch the same holiday movie for the umpteenth time and play the same silly parlor games. Engage without being patronizing. Make certain they have the option to be included if wanted and the easy ability to decline if they truly don’t want to partake in any particular aspect.


Maintain a normal routine.

This may seem entirely contradictory to the concept of “holiday” but try not to veer too far off the aging loved one’s sense of normalcy. If they regularly take naps, exercise, or have a certain diet try to help them stay in their normal routine as much as possible. Those with dementia are best served with routine and consistency, as this lessens the chance for confusion and anxiety.

Familiarize those present with the situation.

Suggest strategies and tools to help interactions for those unfamiliar with dementia. Make certain your aging loved one with dementia feels comfortable with a supportive and understanding holiday ensemble. This is a team effort!


How can one communicate and connect with a loved one who is dealing with this devastating disease?

Communication adjustments can be simple, yet extremely helpful! Share and utilize the tips below for communication with dementia patients.

*This article wasn't sponsored and doesn't contain affiliate links.

Leah Felderman BA MA

About the Author

Leah Felderman is a proud alumnus of University of Central Florida (BA) and San Diego State University (MA). She has worn many occupational hats including teaching, hospitality management, government contractor and non-profit organizer. She is an intrepid international traveler having visited over 60 countries before happily settling down into her new life chapter of domesticity as a mom and Coast Guard wife.

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