Holiday Entertaining when Caring for Someone with Alzheimer’s

Senior adult people make Christmas dinner and enjoy in holiday celebration


Caregiving is a demanding role and, too often, caregivers sacrifice their own needs and wants to ensure their loved one is safe and secure. But it’s important for caregivers to maintain their own health routines and continue to feed their spirit, including connecting with family and friends. The holidays are often a time when people gather to celebrate and spend time with others. If you’re used to entertaining during the holiday season, don’t let your caregiving duties stand in the way. You may need to make some adjustments, but it’s important to continue living your life outside of your caregiver role. Here are some tips to make a holiday party successful when caring for someone with Alzheimer’s.

Adjust your expectations

People with Alzheimer’s usually do best when a routine is maintained – and the holidays are anything but routine. If you are a family caregiver, you are the best judge of the limits you need to set. The Alzheimer’s Association points out that your situation is different now, and you don’t have to live up to the expectations of others. Accept the fact that many family traditions may need a little tweaking in order to accommodate your current situation.

Keep the gathering small

Large crowds can be very confusing and upsetting to someone with Alzheimer’s, so it’s best to keep the gathering more intimate. Instead of a party with people milling about, you may want to have a sit-down dinner. If caregiving has reduced the amount of time you have to prepare, make it a potluck.

Prepare guests on what to expect

Let your guests know what they can expect with your loved one. “She may not recognize you” and “She may act out in strange ways” will help your guests understand the toll the disease has taken and not to be offended or take it personally. Let your guests know that even if it appears your loved one doesn’t seem to know what’s going on, that their presence does, in fact, make a difference and that time spent together will be meaningful for him or her.

Involve your loved one in the preparations

Make sure you include your loved one in preparing for the event. This will help them be prepared, so when guests show up, they won’t be overwhelmed. This will also give them a sense of purpose as well as a stake in having the event be a success. If they like to cook, invite them to help and have them decorate the table. If there’s going to be a gift exchange, have them wrap gifts.

Be flexible

If your loved one becomes overwhelmed, have a quiet space ready where they can go. If they start acting out in a way that’s inappropriate, be prepared and have a plan of action ready.

Give appropriately

If guests are bringing gifts, make sure they bring gifts that are appropriate for your loved one’s new situation. Framed pictures with that person with your loved one may stimulate memories and allow for reminiscing. A gift certificate at a hair or nail salon can make the person feel pampered and cared for. Anything that stimulates the senses is a good gift and can include home-baked cookies or soaps and shampoos. Soft, comfortable clothing that’s easy to put on and take off is also a good choice.

Consider getting outside help

At LifeCare Advocates, we have extensive experience guiding families during the holidays or any time of year. Our care managers can provide an objective, professional assessment of your elder loved ones’ care needs, provided in a gentle, caring manner focused on building a relationship with the elder. We are skilled at presenting our assessment and recommendations to families or other care providers who may be in disagreement, and assisting these groups in coming to consensus about the elder’s best interest, safety, and well-being.

With a little patience and preparation, holiday entertaining can still be an enjoyable time. Enjoy the season!