How to Include a Senior with Alzheimer’s in Your Holiday Celebration

Wondering how you can plan a holiday gathering if a member of your household has Alzheimer’s? These tips will be of interest.

A senior woman and her daughter sitting by a christmas tree.

If a loved one who has Alzheimer’s disease lives with you, organizing a holiday gathering might not seem realistic. Alzheimer’s disease presents unique challenges, such as sundowner’s syndrome and loss of verbal communication skills.

Though hosting a holiday party might require more planning, it doesn’t mean you should skip your celebration. The key is taking extra steps to keep your senior loved one safe.

Educate Guests Ahead of the Party

While awareness of Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia has increased in recent years, many people are only aware that it causes memory loss. It’s helpful for guests to be aware of other potential issues. Make sure you explain the situation to your guests ahead of time in a manner that respects the senior’s dignity. It doesn’t have to be overly detailed or complicated.

In a simple email or note, let guests know you are happy they will be attending your party. Then include a brief sentence or two about the disease. An example of language you might use to explain the situation is:

We are happy that you will be attending our holiday party! Since we’ve last spent time together, my father has become a member of our household. He has Alzheimer’s disease and isn’t safe living alone. His disease causes memory problems, as well as unusual behaviors. Please don’t be offended.

Also know that Alzheimer’s makes daily life more difficult for Dad. Crowds and noise can be tough. He might become agitated or anxious. Rest assured, it’s nothing you’ve done.”

However you choose to inform guests, it is kinder to everyone involved if you educate people ahead of time.

Be Mindful of Timing for Holiday Celebrations

The time of day affects many people with Alzheimer’s disease. Some may have difficulty in the daytime while others have challenges in the evening. After a while, family members recognize these patterns. Take this into consideration as you plan your event.

If possible, schedule your gathering for a time when your loved one is usually at their best. For example, a lunch or brunch might be better than a cocktail party if your family member suffers from sundowner’s syndrome. An evening appetizer and dessert bar may work best if the senior struggles during the daytime. While it might not be the type of holiday celebration you prefer, compromising will make it easier to host a gathering of loved ones.

Create a Resting Plan

For seniors with Alzheimer’s, a change in routine can be difficult. So can things like noise and an influx of unfamiliar faces. These factors can create agitation and possibly even lead to attempts to wander from home.

In the senior’s bedroom or another quiet place, have a playlist of soothing music ready to start. If your loved one will tolerate wearing them, playing music through headphones will further block out background party noise. Also have a few stress-reducing activities ready for your family member. Choose activities your loved one enjoys and finds calming, such as looking through photo albums or folding towels.

It may also be beneficial to enlist the help of a friend who understands the disease and common behaviors to keep your loved one company. They could attend the party and be on stand-by if support is needed.

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