December 5, 2017

Making the Holidays Happy When a Loved One Has Alzheimer's - Lakelyn Hogan


For our December Alzheimer’s Talks, UsAgainstAlzheimer’s Chairman and Co-Founder George Vradenburg spoke with Lakelyn Hogan, a gerontologist and caregiver advocate at Home Instead Senior Care, where she educates professionals, families, and communities on issues that older adults and their families face. At, visitors can sign up for Lakelyn’s free weekly email, with advice, resources, and inspiration from a community of 40,000 caregivers.

This month’s topic was making the holidays enjoyable when a loved one has Alzheimer’s or dementia. Lakelyn offered many tips for families to find joy in this season.


Involve your loved one: Engage your loved one in holiday traditions and festivities. Modify some activities so they can participate. Have other family members help them with decorating, baking, or hosting.

Keep everyday routines: Many with Alzheimer’s find a daily routine comforting. Be respectful and stick to their schedule if possible. Adjust times for holiday gatherings and meals so they can keep their routine.

Adapt: Be prepared but flexible. Allow extra time to prepare for outings. Bring your loved one’s favorite music, snacks, or activity to gatherings away from home, so they can enjoy something familiar.

Help them reminisce: Many with Alzheimer’s or dementia have sharper long-term memories. Look at family photo albums together. Ask them about their memories from past holidays and document their recollections. If they cannot communicate, share your holiday memories.

Use the senses of the season: Engage the senses to help your loved one experience holiday joy. Make treasured family recipes to create familiar scents. Play classic holiday songs or movies, or read religious texts to them.

Make the most of time together: Use this family time to discuss caregiving roles and your loved one’s wishes for the future. If tension or conflict exists, this time can promote forgiveness or healing; a geriatric care manager may be able to help. Give the primary caregiver some respite time to take care of themselves.

Look for signs of cognitive decline: Holiday visits with older relatives offer a chance to observe signs of cognitive decline. Note the condition of their home or car, their personal appearance, and  their skills around the house.

Thank you to Lakelyn Hogan for great advice on making the holidays happy when a loved one has Alzheimer’s or dementia. You can also read a full transcript of the conversation.