Health & Wellness Resources


Gift to be Simple, Simple Gifts

By: Dr. Cate McCarty


Perhaps you have heard the folk tune called Simple Gifts that was written in 1848. It is a flowing melody that seems more prevalent in the last months of the year. The lyrics are simple, and are reported to have been accompanied by a simple routine dance. Aaron Copeland included five variations of the tune in his composition, Appalachian Spring. It is a melody that promotes a whimsical and relaxing response.

As we find ourselves living with dementia, whether as the individual with a diagnosis or as a care companion, we find whimsy and relaxation diminishing. Overwhelming complexity becomes more of a norm in our lives. Add in a hefty dose of holiday expectation and demand . . . stress and its results are far more evident than life before diagnosis. Simplicity can be an anecdote to holiday stress.

Research shows that simplifying processes, and embracing routine are key elements to successfully living with dementia. Small deviations in daily routine can frustrate and overwhelm the individual with dementia and cause a domino effect for family or care companions. In fact, negative behaviors have been traced to the change in routine and the increase in environmental stress. Quality of life with dementia depends on accentuating the positives and minimizing the negatives—a strategy fundamental to Arden Courts’ design and a consistent benchmark for over twenty years.

Any holiday that has been a special time with set traditions can still be special while living with dementia. Simplifying the traditions is the key element. If cookie baking is traditional, simplify it with a mix or a premade dough. Plan to do the baking at a time that is most conducive to your loved one’s enjoyment and participation. If family gatherings have been traditional, have them in smaller doses, with simpler preparations and quieter atmosphere. This simplification will relieve you as well as your loved one while maintaining special traditions.

At Arden Courts, we recognize the need for simplifying tasks and events because we embraced the Montessori approach to aging long before our competitors. We saw the value of simplifying tasks and routines as Maria Montessori did and we trained our staff accordingly. We offer our own community traditions tailored to the enjoyment of you and your loved one. Research shows that simplifying tasks to the ability level of the individual with dementia increases eating; heightens engagement and increases positive affect.

Arden Courts’ was modeled on simplifying life for individuals with dementia while maximizing joys. We have done memory care well for over twenty years with an eye to highlighting simple gifts while living with dementia. Living with dementia does not have to be a burden, Arden Courts is committed to bringing joy through our simplicity.


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.

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