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Celebrating the Holidays During a Pandemic in 5 Easy Steps

Holidays with the family may look different this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still find rewarding ways to share the season with loved ones with Alzheimer’s or dementia.

  1. Accept That This Year Will Be Different

With significant recommendations against social gatherings this holiday season, it’s important to set expectations early for all of your family members, especially your loved ones in memory care who may feel confused. Acknowledging that the 2020 holiday season will be different is the key to making the best out of an unfortunate situation. Make sure to have honest conversations with everyone, including elderly family members and children, to ensure that the entire family understands what to expect as the holidays approach and that these choices are being made to protect everyone’s health and well-being.

  1. Plan Ahead

For loved ones living in senior communities, be sure to ask about any new visitation policies that may affect holiday visits. Find out if visits must be scheduled in advance, as well as any limitations around the number of visitors and the length of your stay.

If possible, send packages and gifts early, and plan distanced or virtual gatherings where you can open gifts in real time together. Making plans ahead of time gives everyone in the family something positive to look forward to during such an unconventional holiday season.

Encourage family members to think of gifts to make this year special. A new hat, gloves, and scarf can warm up an outdoor visit. Consider opening a present or two during your visit, and also putting some gifts aside for your loved one to open on the actual holiday. Enlist extended family members to send cards. Little notes and drawings from children are an easy way to extend the holiday spirit for as long as possible.

  1. Engage the Whole Family

Once a family plan has been agreed upon, prep some activities to keep the holiday spirit high leading up to and during your visit. Ask family members to bring photographs or to share their favorite memories of past holidays. Even simple memories such as favorite family dishes or how the holidays made you feel in the past can open opportunities for conversation. Include your loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia by reminiscing on memories with them, especially from a long time ago. These stories can also be used as conversation starters during future visits.

  1. Take Advantage of Technology

For families that are spread out or too large to have small gatherings, technology may be the solution. Virtual gatherings offer families the opportunity to see each other, especially those that live further away. Since video calls can get hectic and may overwhelm your loved one, try scheduling smaller group calls over time to allow everyone to connect more intimately. It’s easy to get lost in large group calls, so personalized time or one-on-one calls may be necessary.

If video calls are not an option, sharing photographs in real time and scheduling regular short phone calls throughout the holiday season will help them feel involved in day-to-day activities of the extended family.

  1. Take This Opportunity to Record Memories for the Future

Though this holiday season may feel strange, it is a special opportunity to record memories with loved ones in the form of videos, photographs, letters, or audio files. For loved ones with Alzheimer’s or dementia, the passage of time can create more challenges, especially when family visits are limited. Health and safety are of utmost importance, but recording stories and memories from your loved ones now will allow you and your loved ones to reflect on the positive moments later on.

These records will serve as important memories to share with family who are not able to visit, as well as future generations. While this year has presented challenges many of us never expected, staying connected, remaining positive, and enjoying the holiday spirit is still possible!