2004-12-17 / Community

Holiday Tips For Those With Alzheimer’s In Family

For many families caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease, the holidays can be a difficult and emotional time.  Friends and family come to visit, normal daily routines are interrupted, and many people with Alzheimer’s become agitated and disoriented by the changes. The Alzheimer’s Association, New York City Chapter today released tips for families living with someone who has Alzheimer’s disease-estimated to be 200,000 in the New York City area. 


Adjust expectations. Discuss holiday celebrations with family and friends to make sure that they understand what to expect. It may not be practical to continue long-standing traditions. Consider simplifying the occasion, or ask someone else to host the holiday dinner.

Prepare guests who have not visited in a while for changes in the person’s behavior and appearance.

Build on past traditions and memories. For instance, the person with dementia may find comfort in singing old holiday songs.

Avoid using artificial fruits/vegetables or other non-edibles as decorations. Also, blinking lights may confuse the person.

Try to maintain regular routines, such as sleeping and eating patterns or medication schedules.

Avoid alcoholic beverages for the person with dementia-they may cause greater confusion..


Call ahead and ask about a good time to visit. Do NOT drop in unannounced. Be flexible — the unpredictable behaviors of some people with Alzheimer’s may make last minute changes unavoidable.

Speak directly to the persons with Alzheimer’s. Do NOT talk about them while they are within listening distance.

Make visits to the person with Alzheimer’s short and quiet and limit the number of people who are visiting.

Remember the caregiver, even if you cannot visit during the holidays. Telephone, send a note or find other ways to say, “I care. I am thinking of you”-and stay in touch when the holiday is over.

“Even in families without stressful factors like Alzheimer’s disease, the holidays can be extremely taxing.  If you are planning to spend the holidays with someone who has the disease and their caregiver, it is a good idea to be extra-sensitive to the situation,” said Lou-Ellen Barkan, President and CEO of the Alzheimer’s Association, New York City Chapter. “Ask questions, offer assistance when needed and consider a thoughtful gift, like a supply of frozen homemade meals, a house-cleaning service or the gift of respite for the caregiver. With these kinds of thoughtful gestures, the holidays can be a joyous time for all. The New York City Chapter is available through our 24-hour Helpline at 1-800-272-3900 or visit our web site at www.alznyc.org.”

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