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Holiday Tips to Help Elders and those with Memory Loss

As the holidays approach many look forward to the family, friends, and festivities that are in store. However, it is important to realize that as one ages daily schedules get more routine and mobility, cognitive, and medical needs may require you to adapt your expectations and celebrations to incorporate their needs.

Here are some tips to help ensure the elders and those with memory loss related to Alzheimer’s disease and other related dementias in your life find the joy of the holidays is still merry and bright.

Follow Family/Friend Traditions – Did your family open presents on Christmas Eve? Then plan to do so this year, but perhaps move dinner up and plan for grandpa’s quick nap before diving into the presents. Speaking of gifts, consider using bags instead of tightly wrapped boxes, as this helps those with arthritic hands open their surprise all on their own.

Lastly, if you don’t do this already consider singing a Christmas carol or two. Our Koselig family finds that all our residents, but especially those with memory loss music can often spark different parts of the brain, which store the emotional memories that accompany the notes of “Silent Night” or “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” As result, even those who have lost the ability to speak, may sing their favorite refrain.

Minimalize the Menu – The Hallmark Channel has us expecting a 5-course holiday meal with eggnog and hot cocoa for all. However, a day of cooking for 20 minutes of eating, while delicious equals a lot of lost time for connecting and making memories with loved ones. Consider downsizing the menu or ordering it from a local provider, so that you and your family friends can sit and reminisce with grandma. You could supplement this special delivery by having grandma help the grandkids make her favorite dessert, even if it is just ice cream sundaes. It is the time you spend together, not in front of the oven that truly matters.

Break up the Guest List – Seeing family and friends is very important any time of the year, but a big crowd of people, especially small children, can be overwhelming for those not used to it. It may be best to set up times for people to visit. This allows them and your loved one to spend quality time with each other. Another tip is to break out the scrapbooks or old family photos during the visit to provide a fun topic of conversation and smiles. We love seeing our resident’s memories and utilize these special moments in our activities at

Gifts that Give Back – Of course, clothing, and other essential items are always wonderful gifts to give to those we love. Yet often you will find that your presence is present enough, especially when you have helped your elderly loved one by sticking to their schedule and providing them with quality time with family and friends. In doing so you have ensured that their holiday is merry and bright for them and for you!

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