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How to Survive the Holidays: The Caregiver’s Guide

By Jaime Cobb

The holiday season can be a magical time, filled with festive celebrations, family feasts, beloved traditions and warm feelings of love, joy and togetherness. However, for many, this time of year also creates anxiety, stress, guilt and sadness – especially for caregivers of people living with dementia.

For caregivers, the holidays have their own set of unique challenges. Should we celebrate? How much is too much? When, where and who should we invite? What do we tell family and friends about our current situation? These are all valid questions that will come up throughout the season, but you can use the following guidelines when addressing these uncertainties:

Understand your loved one’s comfort levels

  • Plan ahead, but be flexible – e.g., go to the family dinner, but be prepared to leave early if your loved one becomes overstimulated and anxious or restless.
  • Enjoy short visits with family and friends in small group settings (three to four people at a time).
  • While incorporating other activities, try to stick to your loved one’s routine as best you can.

Manage expectations

  • Let your family and friends know what to expect from your loved one and give them tips on how to engage with them.
  • Use the holidays as a time to educate those around you about dementia.

Try a new tradition that engages your loved one

  • Consider sensory activities – e.g., listening to nostalgic music or looking at old photo albums.
  • Reminiscence with them about the past or share funny family stories.

Focus on creating a positive environment

  • Negativity will ruin your holiday spirit and will affect the moods of others around you.
  • Don’t dwell on what is lost, but strive to celebrate and nurture what still remains.

Take time and care for yourself

  • You can’t give to others what you don’t have; rest and relaxation are the best gifts you can give to yourself and your loved one.
  • Make sure you eat well-balanced meals and practice self-care to maintain your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being.

Still unsure how to manage the holiday season while caring for someone with dementia? James L. West provides 24/7 residential and respite care 365 days of the year, including major holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve and more. The facility also offers enriching West Center Day Program activities for participants – and flexible, secure, affordable assistance for their caregivers and families. 

Learn more about our services and programs here or by calling 817-877-1199.