Every year at this time I am asked by families, "How can we make the holidays enjoyable and memorable?"
Before I go on, let's just say that trying to maintain traditional holiday events and family gatherings can lead to feelings of anxiety, frustration and loneliness. Don't expect the person with dementia to participate to the extent that they used to. Maintain a safe environment without confusing decorations, edible decorations, or cluttered walkways. Always identify a "quiet" room where the person with dementia can go to if things get too hectic him or her. The person with dementia should go with a familiar person to stay with so they don't feel isolated.
When choosing gifts it can be helpful to remember people the following:
- In early to moderate stage, individuals are often aware of their limitations and need gifts that enhance their remaining abilities.
- In moderate stage, gifts should simplify daily activities such as dressing or grooming (such as socks that can't be put on the wrong way) music, videos, and photo albums also make good gifts.
- In severe stage gifts should stimulate the senses and make the person "feel good" such as a soft robe colorful mobiles or bird feeders, music, even a small pet for them to nurture and bring back old memories of childhood pets.
Approach the holidays as a new adventure. Develop new traditions and celebrate your loved one's remaining skills.