Health & Wellness Resources


Dementia and Dealing with Holiday Expectations

By: Cate McCarty, PhD, ADC


As we enter the first month of a two-month holiday cycle, it is important to be realistic with our expectations.  Life as a caregiver of a loved one with dementia has shown you there are needs for adaptation. As your journey begins, you are quickly aware of how things that once were smooth, are no longer. Caregivers who are resilient find ways to adapt.

Research shows that resilience is the key to success for caregivers.  Elements of resilience are defined as positive adaptation in the face of adversity, flexibility, psychological and physical health, degree of caregiving burden and social network satisfaction.1 Some of these things you have no control over, some you do.  Flexibility and adaptation are two elements that a caregiver can work to improve.  In fact, you probably already have.

Things you may have adapted already: 

  • Schedule
  • Medication reminders
  • Driving parameters

So how might you apply flexibility and adaptation to the holiday season?

First start with what you have traditionally done, then simplify.

  • If you have always hosted a holiday get-together, plan a simplified version. Perhaps you have it earlier in the day, have a smaller group of invitees, limit the preparations with catering or simplify preparations that include your loved one.
  • If you have always taken an evening to see holiday lights, continue to do so—choosing an earlier time frame and a night that is not a high-volume night for crowds.
  • If you have always gone shopping together, consider doing some of your shopping on-line. Include your loved one by allowing them to help in choosing.  Rather than asking, “what should I get Andrea this year?”, Ask, “will Andrea prefer blue or red towels for her bathroom?” Your loved one is still a part of the choice, but is given some direction in the decision.

For flexibility, remember it is never too early to pull the plug on an event or an outing.  If you see that your loved one is starting to waver, return to his/her normal routine as quickly as feasible.  Allow the decorations and music that you have traditionally enjoyed be enough for this season.

There is a slogan that is helpful; Expectations are resentments waiting to happen. By adapting your plans prior to including your loved one, you can avoid future disappointment and resentment.  Successful caregiving includes resilience.  Contact Arden Courts for more information on caregiving support.


By Line
Cate McCarty, PhD, ADC has been collaborating with Arden Courts in a variety of roles since the late 90’s.  Her background in nursing, activities and admissions has given her a passionate commitment to quality of life for the individual and family with dementia.

Dias, R., Santos, R.L., Sousa, M. F., Noqueira, M.M., Torres, B., et al.  (2015).  Resilience of caregiver of people with dementia: a systematic review of biological and psychosocial determinants, Trends in Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, 37(1):  12-19.