Frequently Asked Questions: Caring For Someone With Dementia At Home During the Holidays

Dr. Macie Smith shares best practices on how to maximize your holiday visits with older loved ones through assessments.

The holiday season is a time of joy, togetherness, and celebration. However, for those caring for a loved one with dementia, it can also bring unique challenges and concerns.

Things can already be hectic with planning family gatherings, traveling or even just finding the time to squeeze everything in. As caregivers, it’s essential to prioritize both the well-being of your loved one and your own self-care.

Here are some questions that I typically get asked about caregiving for a loved one with dementia during the holiday season:

How can I involve my loved one in holiday activities that they enjoy?

Allow your loved ones to participate in activities that are nostalgic, meaningful, and routine for them, such as baking their favorite pie. This is a reminiscent practice that will make preparing for the holidays much easier and more enjoyable. They may not be able to complete all the tasks with excellence. However, there are parts of the process that they may be able to do quite well, such as mixing the ingredients.

So first, figure out what they enjoy.

Then, figure out what part of the process they can participate in with little to no disruption in the overall goal.

Lastly, prepare a safe space where they can participate and be as independent as possible in completing said tasks.

Once they are done, praise them for their efforts, whatever that might be.

How can I prepare my loved one with dementia at home for seeing and interacting with the rest of the family and vice versa?

I suggest having a family Zoom call/meeting to discuss their loved one’s current status about dementia. Here are some best practices
Be very descriptive about their responsive behaviors and how others should respond.

Address any triggers that might cause agitation in your loved one and encourage everyone to stay away from the triggers to avoid any challenges from occurring.

Encourage everyone to wear name tags that indicate a person’s relationship to their loved one so that there will be no guessing games played.

Don’t say things like, “Do you know who I am? Or, do you remember me?” If you have to ask those questions, chances are, they won’t remember.

Also, wearing a picture from long ago on your clothing or carrying it around in your pocket to pull out occasionally might relieve some anxiety and agitation for your loved one.

How can I know what events or gatherings are safe and reasonable for my loved one to attend?

Always consider the person with dementia first and foremost. The smaller the event, the better, as it would be less stimulation.
Allow your loved one to dictate how they feel about each event. If at any time they get irritated or agitated, it’s time to go. If they start to repeat themselves, display restless behavior or appear distressed, it’s time to go. It’s not about the party, it’s about the person.

How can I make my loved ones feel included even if they can’t attend events or gatherings?

A video or phone call is always helpful in making them feel included and appreciated. But try bringing a smaller version of the celebration to them, if they welcome that. Sometimes, you just have to bring the party to the person.

How can I avoid caregiver burnout, especially during busy times like the holidays?

Build a comprehensive team of people with different strengths, talents, and expertise. That way, it’s easier to compartmentalize duties and responsibilities.

Allow people in, but also ASK them to help do specific things. You want to be sure they are skilled in caring for YOUR loved one. Each person’s skill set is unique and what works for one may not work for the other.

Develop a schedule of things that must be accomplished, including self-care time. Self-care is just as much a “thing to do” as preparing dinner.

It might be more important in some cases. So, don’t be afraid to prioritize yourself in the midst of it all. You only have one body, so give it all the love it deserves.

Dr. Macie P. Smith is a licensed gerontology social worker who is focused on helping families support their aging loved ones through long-term care. Specifically, Dr. Smith educates caregivers on how to care for seniors with dementia. She is an advocate for specialized care and assists others in finding a way to provide a better quality of life for individuals with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Dr. Smith has dedicated over 22 years of her life working in gerontology and assisting families in finding personalized solutions for dementia care. For more articles by Dr. Macie Smith, go to


For more information on caring for a loved one with dementia, download SYNERGY HomeCare’s free Memory Care Guide.

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