Holiday Decorating When Your Loved One has Alzheimer's

Sunrise Senior Living  |  December 1, 2017
Holiday Decorating When a Senior Has Alzheimer's

Decking the halls for Christmas or Hanukkah is something many families do together every year, with decorations adding sparkle to the holiday season. But for an older adult with memory loss, these decorations may create disorienting experiences that pose safety challenges.

Thankfully, there are several ways you can make the holidays a safe and happy season for everyone in the family.  

Choose Safe Decorations This Holiday Season

Here are a few factors to consider before you hang a single strand of tinsel on the tree:

  • Animation anxiety: Some seasonal decorations, especially those designed for children, include animation. Singing reindeer, talking elves, and flashing holiday characters are a few examples. Life-sized Santas are another. While these can make the season brighter for the younger generation, they can be frightening for adults with Alzheimer’s. A person with dementia may not recognize that these decorations aren’t real. If you don’t want to skip displaying them altogether, place them in rooms of the house the senior doesn’t visit.
  • Disorienting light displays: Holiday lights are often used inside and outside a home during the holidays. Alzheimer’s often creates vision changes, so lights that blink, twinkle, or flash can be disorienting. It may lead to agitation and wandering. Instead, opt for white lights that stay on consistently instead of blinking on and off.
  • Fall hazards: Making room for holiday decorations around the house often requires changing furniture around and making use of extension cords. Adults with Alzheimer’s often develop gait issues that cause them to shuffle their feet when they walk. When commonly used pathways are obstructed during the holidays, the risk for experiencing a fall goes up. Be sure to keep pathways they take from room to room clear of decorations and extension cords.
  • Use candles with caution: Lighting the candles on the Menorah or on the holiday table are traditions for many. But when a senior has dementia, candles can be dangerous. Because judgment is often impaired among people with Alzheimer’s, the older adult might not recognize the danger an open flame presents. Use candles only when someone can be nearby to supervise.
  • Ornaments: Holiday ornaments can also be hazardous for people with dementia. Faux food ornaments, such as gingerbread men, might look good enough to eat. This can be a choking hazard. Additionally, glass ornaments that sparkle can catch a senior’s eye. They might break them trying to get a closer look and cut their hand. If you want to use these types of ornaments, place them up high where they are less likely to attract an older adult’s attention.

Memory Care at Sunrise Senior Living

From exercise to pet therapy, Sunrise communities are designed to help seniors with dementia thrive in a safe, secure environment.

The holidays are a great time of year to visit a Sunrise community! You are sure to enjoy our seasonal foods and festive activities while you learn about our innovative approach to memory care. Call the community nearest you to set up a time today.