One of the nicest things about the holiday season is the many opportunities we have for celebrating with friends and family. Between all the parties and family get-togethers, it’s traditionally a very social time of year. Naturally, you want to include everyone in the festivities.

For people who have a loved one with dementia, the holidays can be a bit more challenging.

You have to think about their comfort and safety, and you want everyone to have a good time. With a few considerations, you can still have a joyous season where everyone gets involved in the holiday fun.

Three Safe Ways to Include a Senior With Dementia in Your Celebrations

All it takes is a little forethought, and you can plan events that are fun and festive for everyone.

  1. Include Your Senior Loved One in Holiday Cooking

During the holidays, the air is full of familiar scents like turkey roasting or cookies baking in the oven. Just having your loved one around while you’re cooking can be a good way to include them. The familiar, comforting cooking aromas may spark pleasant memories of holiday celebrations from their past. There’s a name for when that happens: sense memory.

If you’re not familiar with the concept, it’s the idea that our five senses play an important role in creating memories. Recalling certain parts of the past may be difficult for someone who has dementia but tapping into sense memory may be easier.

That’s especially important to remember during this time of year when there’s plenty of opportunity for using the senses to engage your loved one. Although memories can be triggered by any of the five senses, the strongest connections are made between smell and memory. The olfactory bulb, which handles scent, is located next to the part of the brain that’s responsible for our memories.

  1. Involve Them in Holiday Preparations

If they’re able, your senior loved one could even help with the baking. That way, they can feel they’ve played a role in the holiday preparations.

In fact, there are lots of ways to weave purposeful activities into holiday celebrations with your loved one. Even if it’s something as simple as hanging decorations on a tree or placing non-breakable decorations around the house, helping may make your loved one feel useful and more involved.

But we want to caution you about holiday decorations and adults with dementia. The Alzheimer’s Association recommends avoiding using blinking lights. These have been known to cause confusion and anxiety in people who have dementia.

  1. Read Holiday Stories Together

Reading aloud to people who have dementia has been found to be therapeutic in many instances. During the holidays, it can be a powerful way to engage them in the spirit of the season.

This works especially well if you have children in your family. For your senior loved one, hearing traditional stories read aloud may not only evoke fond memories but it may also ease feelings of stress.

Celebrating the Holidays at Heritage Senior Living Communities

Heritage Senior Communities is a family-owned company. We know about the importance of family bonds and celebrations throughout the year, not just the holidays. It’s part of living a full, satisfying life.

For our residents with dementia, we have The Terrace–a space that’s 100 percent dedicated to improving their quality of life.

If you’d like to know more about specialized dementia care at The Terrace, we invite you to call us any time!