If we've learned anything in 2020, it's that our older family members are meant to be treasured. We know it can be extra-challenging to be a senior caregiver during the holiday season, especially if your loved one suffers from a cognitive disease like Alzheimer's Disease (AD) or dementia.
You want to include your family member, and the entire family wants very much to spend time with them. As a caregiver, you already know that too much activity, loud music, noisy crowds, and the occasional alcoholic beverage — can overwhelm your loved one, and that leads to trouble. The experienced team at Weatherly Inn understands your situation. We've put together this list of five holiday activities for seniors with dementia. Enjoy!
5 Activities to Help Seniors With Dementia Get in the Holiday Spirit
Deck the Halls Together
Caregivers can get the whole family in the holiday spirit by making holiday decorations and decorating your home, indoors and out. Try this easy and affordable craft that the entire family can enjoy, whether they're older adults or youngsters:
Make Pasta Tinsel
- Paint (or dye) tube-shaped pasta like ziti. Then string them with colored yarn. You can buy a few boxes of pasta, a few bottles of festive acrylic paints and brushes, and a few skeins of holiday yarn for less than twenty dollars.
- Once the pasta is strung, the whole family can decorate your home, exterior landscaping or Christmas tree together.
Pasta-tube-tinsel can last a few years if you pack in an airtight baggie, so you can reminisce on this experience for years to come!
Another fun and rewarding activity for older family members is making holiday ornaments using last year's greeting cards. Arm your loved one with snippets of yarn, child-friendly safety scissors and some ribbons. Ask them to read the cards and make holiday ornaments of them. This activity can help boost their memory of recent family gatherings, plus put those fine motor skills to work.
Bake Some Memories
The holidays are a time to cherish your older family member's culture and history. Get everyone in the kitchen and bake their favorite holiday treats. One way to make this experience extra special is to use your loved one's recipes. You might need to make some ingredient adjustments, but this can be a great way to encourage his or her memory.
If your aging parent or grandparent struggles to remember ingredients or measurements, that's okay. This experience is all about fun, so keep it lighthearted (and search the internet in secret) if they're stumped.
Have a Holiday Movie Marathon
Many families make a tradition of watching their favorite holiday movies together. Try to pick some older flicks that might spark a pleasant memory for your family member.
Our Favorite Holiday Movies for Seniors
- Holiday Inn — per Entertainment.ie it's a popular older Christmas movie starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. This movie was responsible for making one of the most popular holiday songs of history, "White Christmas."
- Miracle on 34th Street — is another classic your family member will likely remember. The original Miracle on 34th Street debuted in 1947 and starred Maureen O'Hara and a young Natalie Wood of West Side Story.
Family movie night is a wonderful holiday tradition that you can even host while social distancing! Just plan a family watch party using Facebook, or involve other family using an app like Skype or FaceTime. We know 2020 has been a bizarre year, but that makes this holiday experience even more memorable.
Create a Holiday Playlist
Numerous studies have proven that music has tremendous benefits for individuals who suffer from AD or dementia. The Mayo Clinic says it's because the portion of the brain associated with music is not affected by Alzheimer's disease or other cognitive problems.
So make a holiday playlist. Dance and sing along to Christmas music. Enjoy this special time with your family! Be sure to include some songs that were popular in decades past.
Take on a Charity
We might not be able to support local businesses as we would during an ordinary year. Still, in 2020 and beyond, it's okay to focus some extra efforts on a charity your family member would appreciate. They might find it meaningful and enjoyable to help you shop for clothing for a homeless shelter or knit hats for infants at your local hospital.
Tour the Holiday Lights or Join a Decorating Contest
Holiday decorating contests aren't a new concept. They've been an American tradition for decades! This year, we can expect more homes involved in competitions and more expensive displays — so it's going to be a great year to tour the holiday lights once or twice, even if you don't decorate your home.
Our Final Thoughts on Holiday Activities for Seniors with Dementia & Knowing When to Quit
Finally, as we navigate through the holidays this unusual year, caregivers of people with dementia or Alzheimer's Disease should remember a few key tips:
- Don't change their diet too much. A hearty ham or turkey dinner is an occasional perfect celebration, but try to dine at their usual times and in the familiar places for most of the season.
- Keep an eye on alcohol intake. Sure, a glass of wine or the occasional hot toddy probably won't cause a problem for your older adult, but don't let other family members ply them with too much alcohol. Some medications — particularly antibiotics and pain killers — can have altered effects or no effect at all.
- Be mindful of crowds. A crowded room that's too hot, with too much noise and loud music can quickly become overwhelming for adults with dementia. It's okay to leave right after the meal if your loved one seems agitated or confused.
We hope these activities help make the holidays merry, bright, and memorable for you and your senior family members.
If you need more support caring for a loved one who has dementia or Alzheimer's Disease, we can help. Click here to see all the ways we can take care of their needs. Our services go beyond assisted living and Alzheimer's / memory care. We also offer day and respite care services so that caregivers can attend to that list of holiday errands, too. Contact us or schedule a virtual tour now.