Manage the Holidays While Caring for Your Loved One with Dementia

We’re well into holiday season, and your to-do list probably feels like a mile long. You have gifts to buy (don’t forget your loved one’s incredible nurses and aides at Regency!), family dinners to plan, cards to send, and so much more.

The holiday season can sometimes feel frantic, but it’s also lots of fun. Is it as enjoyable for your loved one with dementia?

Whether or not your loved one lives with you, the hustle and bustle of this jolly season can be stressful. People with dementia need stability and routine, and any slight change can be very disorienting to them.

Here’s how you can help them weather the holiday season calmly—while keeping yourself sane:

Keep to routine

Staying on schedule is the best possible gift you can give your loved one with dementia during the holidays. If your loved one is an LTC resident, visit them at the same time you always do. This may be hard with all the extra errands you have to do, but try to keep to it as much as possible.

Include them in your preparations

Ask your loved one to help you decorate the table, bake cookies, taste test a recipe, or anything else they can do on their own. They’ll feel included and needed and part of the holiday cheer.

Reminisce with them

Many people feel nostalgic around the holidays, and people with dementia feel it even more. Listen to their stories of holidays past, and talk about some of your own favorite Christmas memories. Keep an eye out though, for blurring of past and present. If your loved one starts looking around for family members who have passed, or become anxious, change the subject to the current holiday.

Say “no” to nonessential tasks

The holidays are a time for giving, and if you can step outside your comfort zone to give a little more that is certainly great. However, you must remember that you’re a caregiver—and you can only give care when your own tank is filled up.

The holidays are for enjoying family time together, so remember to stop, enjoy the time, and take shortcuts in order to stay as present as possible.

Nursing Programs For Residents with Dementia

I recently read an interesting article by Paula Span writing for the New York Times, regarding dementia units at skilled nursing facilities.

There are various euphemistic names applied to these units, including: the reminiscence neighborhood and homestead.

These types of units have spread throughout American nursing homes, where more than 16 percent of nursing homes now include one.

The idea was to provide a calm and secure environment where special attention would be given to residents with particular behavioral or elopement issues as a result of their clinical condition.
Mrs. Span goes on to posit that the “research” shows some “intriguing findings” but nothing that offers declarative proof that these units are better for those with tendencies to wander or who are obstreperous.

I read the entirety of the article and find it difficult to see how she argues her position given the plethora of documented studies to the contrary.

It is interesting to note that an entirely different argument is made concerning dementia units. There are studies which suggest that dementia units can have an adverse effect on residents, in that it cultivates and affects a different quality of life.

The point is, much of this is hardly conclusive and there is a great degree of variability between dementia programs and facilities offering dementia units.

At Regency Nursing Centers for example, we create a highly individualized program to serve our dementia residents and their families with singular compassion and dedication.

This is a completely holistic approach. It is not a rigid ‘one size fits all’ framework, where dementia is treated as an isolated and static diagnosis.

Our experience has shown that by effectively integrating our dementia residents within the fabric of our program, actually lessens the speed at which segregation seems to accelerate their loss of independence.

For more information on our dementia programs, visit us at