Holiday Decorating and Dementia

Decking the halls is a traditional part of the holiday season in many families. But when a loved one lives with Alzheimer’s disease or related form of dementia, holiday decorations can present a few unexpected safety hazards.

Here are a few ways you can adapt your holiday décor to keep a loved one safe:

  1. Avoid twinkling or blinking lights on the tree or around the house. They can be disorienting for someone with dementia. Stick with static lights that don’t flicker on and off.
  2. As the decorations go up and presents pile up, traffic areas in the home can become blocked or cluttered. People with Alzheimer’s disease often have impaired peripheral vision and an unsteady gait. Making the path they take tough to negotiate can cause a fall. Especially for those that have a history of pacing.
  3. Having real candles with an open flame around the home can create a risk for your loved one.  Consider using battery operated candles instead.
  4. Decorations that look good enough to eat just might be. Someone with Alzheimer’s disease may mistake them for the real thing and attempt to eat them. That can create a choking hazard or it could make them sick.
  5. A life-sized Santa or other animated decorations might be frightening for someone with Alzheimer’s disease. You might want to reconsider using them when you are decorating this year.
  6. Shiny, breakable ornaments might be hard to resist touching. If you must use them, try to put them above or below your loved one’s eye level. That way they won’t be as tempted to take them off of the tree to investigate.

If you would like more information on how to make the holidays meaningful and safe for a loved one with Alzheimer’s, the Alzheimer’s Association has a great holiday tip sheet that you can download for advice.

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