Alzheimer's Caregiving During the Holidays: Making the Season Bright

Kathleen Allen, LCSW, C-ASWCM
  • Expert Advice
Published on:
African American family sitting around dinner table laughing during holidays.

No matter the time of year, caring for someone with Alzheimer’s requires an understanding of the one for whom we care. As their caregiver, you know the rhythm of their day, what they like, what calms or upsets them. This understanding is very important in managing their daily life.

But the holiday season is filled with events that happen just once a year, which can be exciting and heartwarming for many. However, for someone with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, it can also be confusing, overstimulating, and agitating. With parties, large family gatherings, and the excitement of preparation, we as caregivers will be more successful in our role if we are ready with a plan for our loved one. Pre-planning for the holidays, along with modifying our expectations and traditions, can make a huge difference for our loved one as well as for us as caregivers.  

Remember What is Important and Modify Expectations 

Is one of your traditions baking lots of cookies during the weeks leading up to the holidays? Weekend afternoons or late nights, dozens and dozens of cookies, using many old, family recipes? Those were great times. But, as good as the memories are, maybe this year, extreme cookie baking is one area to cut back. It just may be better to bake a few dozen of one or two favorite recipes. If your care recipient can recall one or two favorites, bake those. Where possible, include them in the cookie baking process. Have a good time with it. If they become unable to finish the whole process, consider that they probably had a great time and let them stop there. The process is more important than the result.  

Cookie baking is just an example of where we may need to modify our expectations of an outcome. Holiday parties, big family gatherings, religious services, and shopping are a few other areas. In one way or another, holiday events can just be too much for someone with Alzheimer’s. Before embarking on any of these, think about how much would be enough for your care recipient. Overall, remember: 

  • Only do what you and they can manage. 

  • Choose the traditions and activities that are the most important. Leave out the rest. 

  • Hosting a party? Maybe a small party will do instead of the huge event from years past. Opt for a catered meal or takeout to round out the food. Or consider hosting an event that is potluck. 

  • Where possible, have a place where your loved one can take a quiet break away from the festivities. 

  • If you have any visitors during the holiday season, try to keep it to two or three people at a time. Limit the length of the visit. 

  • What is their best time of day? Schedule any visitors for that time. 

Seasonal Safety Concerns 

Don’t forget a few safety matters: 

  •  Keep lit candles out of the house, as well as decorations that may be mistaken for edible food.  

  • Safety proof your home. 

  • Monitor your loved one’s behavior around anything electrical or that generates heat (hot ovens and stovetops). Reconsider whether having a fire in the fireplace is a good idea.  

Can you think of others that apply to your loved one? 

What About You? 

Through it all, remember to take care of yourself. To make it a magical season, build some of your own favorite traditions into the season. This may mean doing things without your care recipient, but either way, be sure you give yourself the gift of the season. If needed, find someone who can cover for you as caregiver, whether it is for an afternoon or evening, or a few days. 

Most importantly, it is the spirit of togetherness and fun that family and friends value and cherish from year to year. Make sure you are having fun. That is what you, your family, and your care recipient need most.


About BrightFocus Foundation

BrightFocus Foundation is a premier global nonprofit funder of research to defeat Alzheimer’s, macular degeneration, and glaucoma. Through its flagship research programs — Alzheimer’s Disease Research, National Glaucoma Research, and Macular Degeneration Research — the Foundation has awarded nearly $290 million in groundbreaking research funding over the past 50 years and shares the latest research findings, expert information, and resources to empower the millions impacted by these devastating diseases. Learn more at


The information provided here is a public service of BrightFocus Foundation and should not in any way substitute for personalized advice of a qualified healthcare professional; it is not intended to constitute medical advice. Please consult your physician for personalized medical advice. BrightFocus Foundation does not endorse any medical product, therapy, or resources mentioned or listed in this article. All medications and supplements should only be taken under medical supervision. Also, although we make every effort to keep the medical information on our website updated, we cannot guarantee that the posted information reflects the most up-to-date research.    

These articles do not imply an endorsement of BrightFocus by the author or their institution, nor do they imply an endorsement of the institution or author by BrightFocus.   

Some of the content may be adapted from other sources, which will be clearly identified within the article.

About the author

Headshot of Kathleen Allen.

Kathleen Allen, LCSW, C-ASWCM

Senior Care Management Services, LLC

Kathleen Allen has been working with older adults and their families for over 20 years.

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