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Using Memories to Keep Spirits Bright

Many of us feel a sense of nostalgia around the holidays – leaving cookies for Santa, unwrapping presents from Mom and Dad, decorating the tree or building a snowman with your siblings. Holidays are mostly rooted around family traditions and memories, which means that this is the perfect time to celebrate those family traditions with your loved ones that struggle with dementia and Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s typically affects a person’s short term memory, so remembering those happy memories from years past can be very enjoyable the entire family.

Here are a few tips that are sure to keep your elderly loved one’s spirit bright!

A delicious meal

Smells are one of our strongest senses and tends to bring back instant memories, or at least the feeling that you have smelled that particular smell before. For many, some of our most fond memories of the holidays happen around the table. The sense of taste and smell can be very important in stimulating your loved one to be in more of a festive mood. We do, however, recommend that a holiday feast be eaten in the morning or early afternoon as people with Alzheimer’s and dementia typically suffer from sun downing, a symptom that causes them to have different expressions at night than they typically would during the day. 

Keep them hydrated!

One important tip for those with dementia is to keep them hydrated! Dehydration can greatly affect their mood and cause their symptoms to worsen. Offer a holiday mocktail in a festive color with fresh fruit garnish or hot chocolate so that they feel included in the festivities.

Take the time to decorate

Decorations and holiday visuals can also stimulate happy memories for your loved one. Family members can set up the tree and decorate with non-breakable ornaments, such as fresh baked gingerbread men, candy canes, or popcorn garland. Remember to keep the tree out of a traffic area or place a small tree on a table, so it is not a fall hazard. If opting to not get a tree, you can always decorate with a large wreath, wooden décor or lots of garland!


“Gift selection can be difficult and often this will depend on where they are at in their diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or dementia.   But a soft blanket, warm scarf, cozy sweater or fluffy robe are greatly appreciated by the elderly who often are cold due to poor circulation and a slower metabolism. A scrapbook, framed photos, or photo album of past holidays or family gatherings is another wonderful gift to reminisce and spark memories. Scented lotions, favorite music, classic movie, or non-skid slippers in lovely wrapped paper are great surprises. Also consider function gifts like a clock with large type that displays the date and time!

Although sometimes the holidays can be difficult when someone you love has dementia, there are so many opportunities to find JOY and celebration. Indulge in past memories, traditions and nostalgia this holiday. Keep your loved one a part of the festivities and adapt your celebrating creatively to accommodate!

From our Azura family to yours, we wish you a wonderful holiday season!

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