Successfully celebrating the holidays with dementia

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Written by: Courtney Whitaker CDP CADDCT CDCM, Memory Care and Life Enrichment Programs Director

For many, holidays are a time of celebration and sweet memories.  For others, it may be a strategically planned event to avoid stressful situations. If your loved one suffers from dementia the celebration may be different, but it can still be a tender and loving experience.

Maya Angelou said, “People may not remember exactly what you did or what you said, but they will remember how you made them feel.” That is very much the case for persons living with a form of dementia. The emotional memory is still very much intact, leaving feelings of happiness, warmth and comfort well after the experience has ended. Cognitively, your loved one might not remember that all of her children were present, but the warm feelings will certainly carry that joy as long as the time together was as low key and calm as possible.

Excessive stimulation might cause the loved one with dementia to have anxiety due to the nature of the disease.




  • multiple gifts
  • lots of noise
  • large crowd
  • introducing strangers
  • unfamiliar surroundings
  • reminiscing about memories
  • correcting every inaccurate statement your loved one makes

Instead try to:

  • give one gift from everyone
  • create a calm and quiet environment
  • visit in small groups
  • celebrate the season in their familiar surroundings
  • talk about one thing at a time
  • speak clearly and naturally in a warm and calm voice
  • listen actively
  • let delusions and misstatements go, it is okay

Following these simple steps can help the holiday season be less stressful for your loved one and an experience their heart will remember.