Holiday Quick Tips for those Living with Dementia

Submitted by Alzheimer's Association of Minnesota/ North Dakota and South Dakota

With Christmas quickly approaching, it can be tempting to idealize nursing home visits — particularly if your loved one is suffering from dementia or Alzheimer's. The nature of the diseases makes family members want to believe their loved ones will be just a bit better. Longterm care staff often spend more time with the residents they care for than their own family. As staff, share your knowledge with the person living with dementia's family members as to what you know about their routine, their sure-fire smile makers, their dislikes, their best time of day so family can visit at that time!

  • During visits, use slow and gentle motions. Smile. Keep lots of eye contact. Go along with your loved one's stories, rather than arguing or negating them. Join them in their reality
  • If possible, visit with someone else. Review the facility's policy on pets and children — they can help brighten a loved one's day.
  • Keep in mind that people with Alzheimer's and dementia thrive on routine. Keep visits low-key and uncrowded.
  • If you take a loved one home, remember to keep his or her medications handy. Consider wearing nametags. Once at home, try to engage your loved one in gentle, low-stress activities. Ideas might include baking cookies, stringing popcorn garlands and creating photo albums.

The holidays can be a wonderful time to reconnect with elderly family members. If you put a bit of extra time and effort into the reunion, the visits will be that much more rewarding.
The Alzheimer's Association is a worldwide health organization dedicated to Alzheimer's care, support, and research. Its mission is to lead the way to end Alzheimer's and all other dementia by accelerating global research, driving risk reduction and early detection, and maximizing quality care and support. More information is available at alz.org or the 24/7 Helpline: 800.272.3900.