Navigating dementia and COVID-19 this holiday season

The holidays are often a joyous time, but they can also be overwhelming, especially for families affected by Alzheimer’s or dementia. This year, the COVID-19 pandemic adds new challenges, especially for older adults who may have underlying health conditions and are at the greatest risk of complications due to the novel coronavirus. 

Many will be unable to spend time with their loved ones or participate in traditional holiday celebrations — but a holiday is still a holiday, no matter where and how it is celebrated. The Alzheimer’s Association is offering the following tips to help families navigate these challenges and provide a meaningful and enjoyable holiday season.

Celebrate while physically distancing
The safest option is to avoid in-person holiday gatherings with people outside of your household, as there are other ways to stay socially connected. Continue holiday traditions by dropping off favorite baked goods or a care package in a way that avoids close contact, such as leaving the special delivery at the person’s front door.Create and send holiday cards.

  Create and send holiday cards.

  Schedule your own “holiday parade” and ask family members and friends to drive by the person’s home with homemade signs or other festive decorations.  

  Plan an outdoor visit with hot chocolate and blankets. 

  Go outside for a walk in the neighborhood to enjoy holiday lights and decorations. If you cannot be with your loved ones, consider calling them to take a virtual walk around the neighborhood with you.

  To ensure everyone’s safety, maintain at least 6 feet of distance between yourself and any person who is not a member of your household. Be sure to follow safety protocols such as handwashing, and the use of hand sanitizer and masks, as appropriate. 

Connect with your family members virtually. 
Schedule a FaceTime, Skype or Zoom call with your loved one and invite other family members to participate. Since it can be difficult to have conversations with larger groups over video, adding some structure to the call can help. Play a trivia game, sing carols or share pictures from past gatherings.

  Record and send a “video holiday card” that includes personalized messages.

  Use video to capture and digitally send special moments, such as children opening gifts.

  Ask people to send gifts in the mail rather than delivering them in person, and then open gifts over a video call like Zoom or Skype or while over the phone.

  Plan a video call to cook or bake a special recipe together.

Involve the person living with dementia
For caregivers supporting a loved one with dementia at home, there are many ways to celebrate the season together.

  Ask the person to help you prepare food, help decorate or set the table.

  Watch seasonal movies or listen to your favorite holiday music together.

  Involve the person in gift giving. For example, someone who once enjoyed baking may enjoy helping to make cookies and pack them in tins or boxes. Or the person may enjoy wrapping gifts or helping to send holiday cards.

The holidays will be a little different this year because of COVID-19. Not everyone will celebrate the same way, and it is important to choose what is best for your family’s needs and comfort levels. If you need support or guidance this holiday season, please know the Alzheimer’s Association is here to help. Call our 24/7 Helpline any time, day or night: 1.800.272.3900.

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