For most families, the holidays are filled with opportunities for togetherness, sharing, laughter, and memories. But for families coping with Alzheimer’s disease, holidays also can be filled with stress, disappointment, and sadness.

One of the first things you should do is realize that the holidays may no longer be the same as in the past and adjust your expectations accordingly. No one, including yourself, should expect you to maintain every family tradition or event. Give yourself permission to do only what you can reasonably manage. If you’ve always invited fifteen people to your home for a seven-course dinner, consider inviting five for a more simple meal. Ask others to bring “pot luck” dishes or to host the meal at their home. Those close to you and your loved one may welcome this opportunity to help.

To avoid unpleasant surprises or hurt feelings, you may want to discuss holiday celebrations with relatives and close friends ahead of time. Make sure that all family members understand the situation and have realistic expectations for their visit. After months or years apart, family members may be alarmed to see the changes in their loved one. They may be shocked by the person’s appearance or behavior and disturbed by the deterioration of memory. They may even suggest that you are not properly providing care for their loved one. You may wish to familiarize them with the situation in advance by calling or sending a letter that makes these points :

“While we’re looking forward to your visit, we thought it might be helpful if you understood our current situation before you arrive. Because Mom sometimes has problems remembering and thinking clearly, her behavior is a little unpredictable. Please understand that she may repeat conversations and may not remember who you are or confuse you with someone else. Please don’t feel offended by this. She appreciates your company and so do I.”

Enjoy the moments when meaningful communication and interaction occur, how ver short and infrequent they may be. If your loved one can engage in conversation with a grandchild for only two minutes, treasure those two minutes, rather than measuring it against the way you think it should be.

One of the first things you should do is realize that the holidays may no longer be the same as in the past and adjust your expectations accordingly.

Involve the person with Alzheimer’s disease throughout all stages of holiday preparation. Pick manageable activities: wrapping gifts, setting the table, or preparing simple foods such as appetizers. Avoid asking the person to do more complicated and potentially frightening activities such as lighting a menorah or hanging blinking lights.

“A holiday is still a holiday, whether it is celebrated with your loved one at home or in a residential care facility,” says Anna Ortigara, vice president of program development for Life Services Network, which operates residential care facilities. “The most important thing is to spend time together, enjoying the moment for what it is.”

According to Ortigara, families should carefully evaluate whether persons with Alzheimer’s disease should spend the holiday in their usual environment or elesewhere. Some people do not deal with change very well, and spending the holiday away from home or their facility may not be pleasurable for them.

Taking your loved one on short outings prior to the holiday can help ease the transition and allow more enjoyment when the time comes to visit your home. If the person with Alzheimer’s disease must stay at a residential care facility, think of ways to celebrate the holiday together.

“ If planned carefully, visiting a love d one in a residential care facility can be a wonderful experience for everyone , ” says Anna Ortigara. “Bringing a favorite holiday food or singing holiday songs along

Maintain your loved one’s normal routine as much as possible in order to limit disruption and confusion. Fo r example, if the person goes on a daily walk, try to continue that practice, even on a holiday.

Build on past traditions and memories. Your family member may find conmfort in singing old holiday songs, for example. But also experiment with n ew holiday traditions, such as re n ting seasonal videos that the less active person may enjoy.

Sign your loved one’s name to some of the presents you give to other family members. This will help the person contribute to the holiday celebration.

During the holiday gathering, be alert for signs of agitation and frustration in your loved one. Do not seat him or her in the middle of a noisy room as it may result in over-stimulation and agitation. The person with Alzheimer’s may be able to focus better on questions and comments in a corner are a of the room where there are fewer distractions.

Give yourself a gift Caregiving is a labor of love. “Those who provide care to others often overlook their own needs, believing that they must take a backseat to their love d ones,” says Steven Zarit, PhD, professor of human development and assistant director of the Gerontology Center at Pennsylvania State University. They can grow depressed, lonely, and frustrated , particularly around holidays. Caregivers often do not exercise, watch their own nutrition, or get enough sleep. “Caregivers in this situation often burn out quickly and are unable to care properly for their loved one in the long term,” adds Zarit.

You will be a better, stronger caregiver if you don’t neglect your own needs. If friends or family members ask you what you want for a gift, suggest a gift certificate for a take-out restaurant, dry cleaner, laundromat, or cleaning service. If you don’t receive those gifts, celebrate the holiday by giving such a gift to yourself.

Ask for help and support. De velop a list of tasks that need to be done, from buying groceries to washing clothes to p reparing meals. Ask family and friends to volunteer for some of the tasks on a regular basis. If someone asks, “What can I do to help?” you can respond with a specific idea. Close friends and family will appreciate the opportunity to help you in this difficult situation.

“A holiday is still a holiday, whether it is celebrated with your loved one at home or in a residential care facility”. To read the complete article please go to: Prepping.


  • The Alzheimer's Association (U.S.A.) assumed leadership of the world's largest international conference on Alzheimer's disease, World Alzheimer Congress 2000. Over a 10-day span, world leaders in Alzheimer research and care united in July 2000, marking the first time these Alzheimer specialists have come together for the vital purpose of sharing information on research and care to improve the lives of people affected by Alzheimer's disease. This unique gathering of scientists, healthcare professionals and other specialists was the collaborative effort of the Alzheimer's Association (U.S.A.), Alzheimer's Disease International, and the Alzheimer Society of Canada. For more information, visit the web site.