Dementia & The Holidays: Keep It Simple

For well-intentioned families who are determined to keep family traditions going year after year for their loved ones with memory loss, ’tis the season to be jo…uuust about ready for spring. Especially this year.

While 2020 might give you and your loved one a mandatory reprieve from the stresses of traveling, entertaining too many visitors, and the other typical challenges the holidays present families affected by memory loss, this year also brings its own set of challenges.

“Keeping your loved one physically safe is, of course, a top priority,” says Suzy McCann, Community Relations Director of YourLifeTM of Pensacola, a Memory Care community in Pensacola, Florida. “However, for people with memory loss, holiday celebrations can be powerful connectors to the people around them. Celebrating on a small but meaningful scale can be very beneficial to the person’s spiritual and emotional health.”

In this post, we will explore how to simplify your holiday celebrations to warm your loved one’s spirit and minimize your stress.


Decorating for the holidays can be just what your loved one needs to get into the spirit of the season. However, don’t over-stimulate them. Choose simple, low-key decorations over blinking lights or moving adornments, avoid decorations that could be mistaken for edible treats such as artificial fruit, and keep furniture-rearranging to a minimum. You want your loved one’s space to be festive but not unrecognizable.

Pipe in some ambiance. Play your loved one’s favorite carols and dispense seasonal aromas such as sugar cookies, pumpkin pie, or balsam fir to stir fond memories and feelings. The two of you can even create your own holiday blends! As always, make sure your loved one’s environment is safe from lit candles, tripping hazards, and fragile decorations.



Without the influx of holiday visitors and gatherings this year, it may be up to you to help your loved one stave off loneliness or restlessness. Luckily, low-key holidays bring plenty of opportunities to create – and re-create – meaningful moments together without too much extra effort on your part.

If it’s safe for your loved one to venture out, they may enjoy a short but spirited drive around the neighborhood to see the holiday lights. As you go about your normal preparations indoors, whether decorating, cooking your feast, or baking sweet treats, involve them as much as you can without causing them anxiety or distress. Use this time to reminisce together about your favorite family traditions and stories.

Focus on the tasks and emotions attached rather than the results. Does your loved one want to display your latest crafting project – homemade what-were-supposed-to-be-reindeer – front and center on the mantle? Let them! Over the next few weeks, the sight of them can give your loved one a sense of accomplishment and remind both of you of the fun you had making them together.

Keep any gatherings you have for your loved one this year safe, small, and quiet. Even though they likely won’t be gathering in large and stressful groups, it’s still a good rule to keep even your Zoom gatherings to just a couple of “visitors” at a time.


TIP: A real challenge to virtual holiday gatherings is making sure your technology is working correctly and that your loved one will be able to see and hear their visitors without issue. So you’re loved one doesn’t become overwhelmed or lose interest before the visit even begins, it’s a good idea to do a dry run with the attendees and bring your loved one in when any kinks are worked out. Before your loved one joins you is also a good time to update friends and family on any changes in your loved one’s behaviors, identify any triggers to avoid, and recommend ways to communicate with your loved one. Let them know that their patience and understanding is appreciated.

RELATED: 5 Great Video Apps Make Virtual Visits Fun and Meaningful


Simplifying the holiday season isn’t just going to benefit the person you care for; it’ll also benefit you. You can further reduce holiday stress by having a plan. Consider your typical list of activities and traditions and choose only the most meaningful and enjoyable ones this year. For example, make two kinds of cookies, not your usual ten. Organizing which activities you want to do and when will lessen your pre-activity stress, and simplifying your schedule will give you and your loved one more time to relax and savor the most important ones.

Next, manage your expectations. You know better than anyone how much your loved one can handle, how to manage their anxieties, and how to help them avoid isolation or cabin fever. But what about you? When you start to feel overwhelmed, make some time for yourself. If you only have a few minutes, go for a walk, call a friend, or take some deep, cleansing breaths. Check out the Mayo Clinic’s practical tips for managing your own stress during the holidays.

Above all, remember that you don’t need to go all out to replicate past holidays in order to make this holiday season perfect for your loved one. In fact, keeping it simple, with your energies focused on making just a few of their favorite traditions extra special, will make it less stressful and more enjoyable for you both.

Discover how YourLife™ of Pensacola makes residents’ spirits bright this holiday season! Call us today at 850-290-2632.



The Memory Care Your Loved One Deserves.

Offering the very best in Memory Care, YourLife™ of Pensacola was designed specifically with residents in mind. We’ve created a community where residents define their own lifestyles, informed by their preferences, needs and story, while having peace of mind with 24-hour support.

Because we focus solely on Memory Care, all our resources and attention cater to each resident’s needs while providing unmatched peace of mind for families. Our licensed nurses and YourLife™ Personal Care Specialists are on site 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to provide personally inspired care and support, no matter your needs. With such dedicated care, our residents have the support they need to live as independently and engaged as possible.

At YourLife™ of Pensacola, YourStory comes to life. Whether you want to enjoy our exclusive activities and YourStory programming, spend time exploring our services and amenities, relax in our easy-to-navigate Memory Care neighborhoods and living areas or try something new, the choice is entirely up to you.

Call us at ​850-290-2632 for more information or to schedule a personal visit today.