Holiday Gathering Tips and Good Tidings

 In Caregiver Tips

By Kari Burch, OTD

The holidays can be a very exciting time… and a stressful time too!  When you are caring for someone with dementia, you may notice that the holidays bring even more stress. Here are a few reasons why this may be the case, and things you can do to make sure your family gatherings are happy for all.

Preventable stress for a person with dementia can come from…..


When the family gets together, things can be loud! Lots of conversations and simultaneous activities can be stressful and overwhelming to a person with dementia.  It is simply too difficult to process all of these things at the same time.

Consider the number of people in the same room or at the same table as the person with dementia during meals and activities.  If you know ahead of time, you may be able to develop a good plan so that the person can still enjoy conversation and company with all family members, just not all at once.   Talk to the family ahead of time about what will work best for your loved one.

Changes in Routine

A person with dementia will function best if their day to day routine stays consistent. This helps things feel automatic and comfortable.  During the holidays, to some extent, we cannot always control how the day will go.

Consider aspects of the person’s day to day routine that can be maintained during or around the holiday events or family gatherings. For example, you may not be able to control what exact activities are occurring during the day, but if wake time, bed time, and mealtimes can be kept as close as possible to the person’s regular schedule, this can help.


Sometimes a person with dementia may repeat the same questions over and over about what the plans are for the holidays.  Sometimes the person may become anxious about plans.

Consider how your loved one responds to getting news about upcoming events.  Sometimes it helps to “not advertise” too far in advance, if the person becomes very anxious about what event will be happening. If the person is very excited about the event but wants more and more details, consider putting up a note on the fridge or on the calendar with the important details. Then, instead of repeating the same answer each time, try saying, “I don’t know – let’s check the calendar!”