Caring for Individuals with Dementia During the Holidays

Penny Patnaude, founder of Caregiver Strategist LLC

Holidays are often difficult for many people, this year particularly so due to the loss of people and things. Seniors in particular are suffering from isolation and grief more than ever. Through the pandemic, we continue to help who and when we can.

Everyone has the ability to practice the elements of safety to assist with the fight against coronavirus. One thing to begin practicing is a positive attitude. A different viewpoint and mindset will help keep us upbeat. Although we may not be with loved ones, we can still give thanks, share our thoughts, and celebrate the smallest things in life, especially now.

Individuals with dementia require extra sensitivity and care during the holiday. Facilities will likely enforce stricter rules with no visitations as the number of coronavirus cases increase. Isolation is very painful for individuals. Humans need touch, compassion, communication and care from others.

Even when things are out of control, it is vital to assign personnel to assist all healthy individuals with productive activities and constant daily engagement. The residents must maintain a sense of purpose and endurance of a positive attitude to continue the will to live.

People with dementia will react to the holidays differently depending on their circumstances. Those who have recently suffered the loss of friends and family during the pandemic need time and space to grieve. People who’ve experienced deaths close to the holiday might long for solace or view this time of year as sorrowful.

Everyone does not have to enjoy the festivities, so don’t push your feelings onto others, especially those with dementia. For some people, caroling and music bring happiness, and that’s great. However, respecting those who chose not to celebrate the holiday should be honored as well. These residents still need engagement and attention, just not specifically holiday related. Religion without commercialism or decorations might be more acceptable, or simply looking forward to a new year with hope.

It can be comforting to take the opportunity to give thanks for all of the good things and people you know. Even if a beloved person is no longer on this earth, take the time to be grateful for the lessons learned and time spent with them. Continue to listen to patients’ stories and help them find ways to pay homage to those they love. A collage of residents and staff lost is one way to have an open discussion about the pandemic and safety protocols. It also offers closure.

The pandemic has hurt many families and healthcare professionals, and many of you remain dedicated to your loved ones and your profession. Just know you are appreciated by those who care, even if they cannot share how thankful they are. Know that someone somewhere is giving thanks for you.

Topics: Alzheimer's/Dementia , Featured Articles , Resident Care