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It’s the Holidays and Grandma has Dementia

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By Terri Wilson

The holiday season brings a lot of traditions in each family!  Just a few short years ago, it was Grandma doing all the cooking and decorating for all those grandbabies, but now she has Alzheimer’s, what to do?  You want everyone to enjoy this time of year and no one to be left out, but consider a few adjustments in your decorating and celebrating for everyone’s enjoyment and safety.

We suggest to tone down the decorations with a few simple adjustments that will still be enjoyed by all

  1. Keep floors clear of holiday rugs and extensions chords, they are huge trip hazards for all.
  2. Keep to non-blinking lights,  blinking lights and large decorative displays can cause disorientation and behavior challenges.
  3. This is not the time to have glass pickle or apple ornaments out or hung on the tree, anything that appears edible should not be out this year.  It is OK to string popcorn!
  4. Use battery candles only, no fire is best
  5. Have Grandma stay home while you shop at the mall, the crowds are overwhelming and she may wander off easier than normal.

Instead of what you have always done for this special time of year, consider new traditions.  We’ve listed a few simple new ways to celebrate and decorate

  1. Holiday music is soothing to those with Dementia, if it is kept slow and from their era, Bing Crosby and Dean Martin will bring such joy!
  2. Bake cookies, and decorate them with Grandma.  What seems boring and repetitious to busy people, is just what is needed; hearing and doing the same thing over and over brings great comfort.
  3. Make paper chains out of construction paper.  Have the strips pre-cut and use a glue stick, who doesn’t like paper chains at the holidays!  Hang them around her door or drape over her bed to brighten her room.
  4. Buy silk Poinsettia plants for the tables, in case a leaf goes in a mouth.
  5. Glitter pine cones to hang on a wreath
  6. Make pomanders,  poke cloves into oranges and hang with a string, she probably did this as a young girl and can evoke sweet memories, and maybe you’ll hear a new story!  You may not know if it’s a true one, but that’s OK!
  7. Have them sit and crack nuts with an old fashioned nut cracker, she will love it!

These simple activities can fuel feelings of accomplishment and pride.  Someone with cognitive impairment needs soothing, calming and engaging activities.  If these are done with others, keep the number of people to a minimum and probably not young children, but it’s a great way for a teen to spend time with them!

So it’s the holidays and your family dynamics have changed, make it a time of new, sweet memories for everyone!  Keep it fun, Keep it simple, and most of all, keep it safe!

Feel free to call Concierge Care Advisors for any need or concerns, we are always happy to help.  If you need to travel, call us for suggestions on respite or in home care also.




*Image courtesy of zirconicusso at

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