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Christmas Activities for Seniors with Dementia

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For many families, the holiday season is a time full of busy, yet joyful festivities. 

If you have a loved one living with memory loss, Alzheimer’s disease, or another type of dementia, it may cause some stress around how to include them in the holiday festivities without them becoming overwhelmed. 

Breaking up the festivities and adapting them to match your loved one’s abilities can keep them engaged in the fun while meeting their current abilities. 

In this guide, we’ll explore holiday activities and how they can be adapted to be dementia-friendly.


Holiday Activities That Help With Dementia Symptoms

Purposeful engagement is key for people living with dementia, and the holiday season presents lots of opportunities to stay busy. Here are some Christmas activities that are not only enjoyable but can help with dementia symptoms. 

1. Set up the Christmas Tree 

Setting up the tree is often a family tradition when it comes to putting up holiday decorations. An artificial tree may be easier to manage for caregivers as they do not require watering. 

Setting up the tree together is an easy way to include your loved one in a festive activity. Provide decorations and Christmas ornaments to hang, or ask their thoughts on placement if they choose not to hang them, themselves.

Breaking up the decorating over a couple of days can decrease the chance of becoming overwhelmed and stressed. Consider hanging lights and garlands one day, and ornaments the next. 

If your loved one lives in a senior living facility, bring some Christmas decorations to decorate their space together.

2. Create a Christmas Countdown

A Christmas countdown or Advent Calendar is a great way to make every day of the season a bit more special.

If your loved one lives in a skilled nursing facility or another senior living facility, consider bringing it with you when you visit. Perhaps, the staff can incorporate the calendar as part of the morning routine.

3. Sing Christmas Music

Christmas carols are one of the best parts of the holiday season!

Music, especially traditional holiday songs, is accessible in the brain throughout dementia. Carols are a fantastic way to engage and stimulate your loved one, regardless of their stage of dementia

Additionally, it’s easy to make an activity a bit more festive by playing holiday music. If your loved one has home care services, encourage their aide to join in on the holiday spirit by singing and listening to music with your loved one - it’s an easy way to connect and build a relationship.

4. Check out a Holiday Craft Fair

If your loved one is a bit more active, consider checking out a local holiday craft fair. Holiday craft fairs are often filled with local vendors and you'll be sure to find potential Christmas gifts and probably even something for yourself.

5. Watch a Holiday Movie

Get cozy under warm blankets, by the fire, with your loved one’s favorite winter treats and watch a holiday movie. 

With so many holiday movies to choose from, you can watch a classic like “Miracle on 34th Street”, something more recent like “Elf”, or one of the many renditions of “A Christmas Carol”.

6. Do a Festive Puzzle

If your loved one enjoys puzzles, make it festive! 

Whether it’s a winter-themed jigsaw puzzle or a holiday crossword puzzle a Christmas puzzle can keep your loved one stimulated all winter! 

7. Bake Holiday Cookies

Baking together uses all sorts of senses - touch, taste, and smell. Invoking these senses has the power to spark conversation and reminisce about happy memories. 

Baking can easily be adapted to meet your loved one’s abilities. If they have early-stage dementia, they may be able to help with only a little guidance.

Seniors living with a more advanced form of dementia might require you to do most of the work, but nonetheless,  use the activity to engage with your loved one.

8. Enjoy a Christmas Lights Ride

A holiday lights ride is a wonderful activity idea for the entire family, regardless of your loved one’s dementia stage. Hop in the car, grab some hot cocoa, and travel around town listening to holiday tunes and looking at the lights.

9. Send out Christmas Cards

Picking out Christmas cards, as well as signing and sealing them is a great, purposeful activity for dementia patients to do around the holidays.

The process of sending out Christmas cards can be simplified into small steps.  It can be done together and sent out to friends and family members. Plus, you can find creative ways to display the Christmas cards that your loved one receives! 

Try displaying them on a wreath, in cabinets, or by the windows - anywhere that your loved one can see them and enjoy them.

 

This season, keep the holiday spirit alive with a Christmas activity every day! It’s never too late to create new holiday traditions and happy memories together, despite a dementia diagnosis.

Laurel McLaughlin

A Certified Dementia Practioner with over a decade worth of experience in various sectors of the elder care field- home care, senior living, and non-profits. She has a Master’s in Gerontology and is a certified dementia practitioner.

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