Hosting Dementia Friendly Gatherings

Holidays and special gatherings are filled with family, friends and lots of activities. These are times for celebration, remembering old times and creating new memories.

For people with dementia and their primary caregivers, the liveliness of more people and the pressure to reminisce can be a great source of stress! People with dementia can become overwhelmed with all the stimulation and become fretful. Caregivers not only have to tend to their partner, they also have to field questions and concerns from friends and family.

Friends and family often are at a loss of what to do. In addition, it can be difficult to accept the changes in their relative or friend with dementia since they last saw them. Their loving concern can be overwhelming to the caregiver who is busy trying to navigate a social gathering.

This may seem a bit daunting! However, by recognizing that our loved ones with dementia need a few special accommodation—which aren't too difficult to provide—it's possible to create a lovely gathering for all!

Below are some helpful tips:

  • If you are a caregiver, consider sending a letter or email to family and friends beforehand, letting them know how your loved one is doing and what to expect when they see them.
  • Early is best for gatherings. Energy levels tend to flag later in the day
  • Create a quiet space, away from noise like televisions and loud groups. Small group visits are best as it allows her or him to focus and follow the conversation. Slow your speech down, looking at the person straight on and holding hands can work wonders!
  • Because it takes longer for information to travel to and from their brain, be patient and give him or her a little extra time to respond during conversation.
  • Well lit rooms and open doors are best in order to reduce confusion.
  • Create a space for him or her to rest. It takes a lot of energy to focus and interact when a person has dementia.
  • Have him or her participate in preparation. Something as simple as stirring the pudding or folding napkins can give them a sense of purpose and lighten their mood.
  •  If possible, make sure their plate is a different color than the tablecloth. This makes it easier for them to discern where their food is.
  • Music works wonders. Consider having a little singalong! Singing old classics is something in which many people with dementia can actively participate.
  • Last of all, please remember to spend quality time with the primary caregiver. They work very hard and often experience isolation caring for their care-partner.

If you need further resources, please feel free to schedule an appointment to speak to one of the older adult services librarians.

I wish you all a lovely, dementia-friendly holiday season!