Preparing for Holiday Visits

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We are fast approaching the myriad of holidays and with it come family gatherings.  For the many families that provide caregiving to older adults with Alzheimer’s or Dementia this time can be unsettling for visitors and/or family members who live outside of the area and don’t visit often. It can also be exhausting for those that are the primary caregivers.  We would like to share a few suggestions to make this precious time together gentler on all.

If possible, ask visitors to keep to one or two at a time. Too many people can be overwhelming and can add to frustration and potential behaviors that are upsetting to all involved.  Some families choose to break a holiday into smaller celebrations, inviting only a few guests to visit at a time.  While this isn’t your usual tradition it can allow the adult with dementia and/or Alzheimer’s to integrate in the visit of others.

Most older adults have a window of 1 – 2 hours each day that is their “best”.  It is a time that they have the most energy and are most likely able to interact and stay focused with visitors and/or family.  Try and schedule visits for the time of day when your older adult is usually at their best.

Prepare one “activity” for the older adult to engage in so that they aren’t the focus of the visit.  A few examples are leaving out a photo book or album to a page when they are young, can remember and/or when their visitor is captured in the photo with them.  This makes for an easy passage into stories to share with the older adult and visitor.  Another example can be a bouquet of flowers nearby if they were a gardener or for someone who worked with cars, an auto magazine nearby with photos of cars they worked on.

Another consideration is to minimize all other distractions by keeping the environment calm and quiet. Turn off the TV or loud music and ask any non-visitors to go to another room.  The real focus is on the interaction with their family member and using these recommendations at upcoming visits can help the ease the holidays for all involved.


Written by Joyce Sjoberg, RN, MA, BSN, CMC

Categories: Wellbeing