Memory Loss and the Holiday Season

December 8, 2021

It is only natural to want to be surrounded by family during the holiday season, including your loved ones living with memory loss in a senior living community. Maybe you’re considering bringing your loved one home for the holidays. For some, reminiscing about the “good old days” and taking part in long-standing traditions may fill the individual with memory loss with confidence and a sense of self. For others, a change in routine can be incredibly disruptive, and you may want to consider visiting them in their senior living community instead.

First, determine whether a holiday outing is suitable for your loved one. Here are a few items to consider:

  1. Do you currently take your loved one out of their community on a routine basis?
  2. Does the same person typically take your loved one out?
  3. Are they long outings or quick trips to the store?
  4. How do they cope during outings?
  5. Do the visits include a lot of noise and action, or are they quieter and more subdued?
  6. Does your loved one have any medical needs that may need to be addressed during an outing? If so, are you equipped to handle them?
  7. Is your loved one new to their community? If so, do you anticipate them having difficulty readjusting once they’ve returned?

Once you’ve considered the above questions, consulted your loved one’s care team, and have determined that a holiday outing is appropriate, take the following suggestions into account:

  1. Most visits and excursions are best planned when the care team is aware, but your loved one is not. Being told too far in advance may create some anxiety for your loved one, especially if they have difficulty keeping track of time and dates. Their care team can assist in getting your loved one ready for the outing and creating a positive surprise experience just before you arrive.
  2. We recommend shorter visits so that your loved one doesn’t get too exhausted or overwhelmed. Assign one family member to monitor your loved one for signs that it is time to return to their senior living community before fatigue or distress becomes apparent.
  3. Be sure to have your loved one pack extra clothing for their visit, including undergarments, in case they get cold, have a spill, or have an accident. Pack enough medication and treatment supplies for the length of the outing and consider bringing along extras in case the visit runs long. If your loved one owns a comfort item, like a favorite blanket or photo, bring that along as well.
  4. The best time of day for your visit will depend on the time of day that your loved one is usually at their best. Typically, mornings are better than late afternoon. You may want to have a brunch visit for these individuals instead of an evening meal. 
  5. Finally, be mindful of the space in which your loved one will be spending time to avoid falls. Remove clutter, scatter rugs, and coffee tables that make walking difficult. Make sure the space is well lit, extension cords are out of the way, and separate them from family pets that may jump and cause fear.

Of course, your loved one’s doctors and care team members will be your best resources for making any decisions regarding holiday outings. No matter where you celebrate, we hope that your holiday is a successful one!

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